In the ever wise words of my Norwegian heritage, uffda . Our last several days passed quickly and when the dust settled in the basement of the Zhejiang Natural History Museum, we all breathed a sigh of relief and dust. The grant provides money and time for cultural field trips, so for the remainder of our time in China we planned a trip to Beijing. By train.
For having grown up in a country that was built on railways, I have had a disappointing amount of train experience. Aside from a short trip between Baltimore and D.C., I have never been on a long train ride, and most members of our group had never been on one at all. That all changed when we boarded our eleven p.m. train for Beijing. Now, an eleven in the evening train ride might sound like an uncomfortable way to start off your night. Fortunately we had booked “Soft Sleeper” seats that indeed offered the softest beds of the trip. Chinese beds are traditionally on the hard side, and we have become accustomed to little better than a comforter on a plywood sheet. After watching the city lights and sparks of arc-welding pass us by, we retired to our top bunks for the evening. It wasn’t long before the gentle rocking of the train and the ample blankets pulled us into slumber.
I awoke briefly the next morning to the sound of a lady selling breakfasts from a cart. I rolled over and waited for the lunch cart. When I finally forced myself to get out of bed, I joined the others by the window to watch the countryside of China roll by. Rice paddies switched to wheat fields the farther north our train went. What was most striking were the continuous miles upon miles of an even newer and taller railway track.
I was almost reluctant to hear that our train was nearing Beijing, but then I remembered that I was nearing Beijing. We said goodbye to the young couple and their son Mark, the occupants of the bottom bunks, grabbed our bags and set off to find our final adventures.