The train whistle blew and the train moved with a jerk. I check my watch, it is 10am, the train is one hour late leaving. I told Hua Dong I would be there in the afternoon and would call upon my arrival. They had reserved me a room at the Tianjin Hotel, the only hotel in the city. The train went about two miles and stopped to pick up passengers. Top speed was about 15mph. Every few miles it would stop to pick up more people and their goods. The goods were mainly pigs, chickens and who knows what else were inside their baskets. I thought this was just because it was near the city and the train would pick up speed soon but it never did. It stopped every few miles to pick up people and animals.
I was on the animal farm express! Checking my watch it was now 5pm and we should have been at Tianjin or close to it but the train was so slow. From Beijing to Tianjin there are no stations only stops to let people on and off in the middle of nowhere, so I know I did not miss my stop. I spent my time people watching and looking out the window but since it was dark early due to winter the time there was not much to see. Most of the people in my train car were watching me as I was the only white person there and most likely I was the only white person they had ever seen.
Sometime during the train ride a girl pushed a cart down the aisle with a pot large of hot tea. Tied to the pot by a long string was a tin cup. She would pour a cup full of tea and pass it to the first person in the row. They would drink and then hand it back to be refilled. The next person would then drink and so forth on down the row until all had a drink of delicious Chinese tea out of the same contaminated tin cup. When it came to me I declined. I had read in the Wall Street Journal that in China, the big cities had nearly a 20% Hepatitis B infection rate. I gladly had a drink of my water. This tea was heated on an old coal fired pot belly stove which was also the heater for the train car. I was freezing, tired and hungry.
Soon, the so called first class car was full of people sitting on the floor and bringing on board their pigs, chickens, and ducks that s— all over the place. The noise was terrible, pigs squealing, ducks quacking and kids screaming. I was going nuts. I was thinking when is this nightmare going to end? Checking my watch it was now 8pm.
I had to use the toilet. There was a swinging half door and behind it was a hole in the floor to use for the toilet. It was at the other end of the car and I had to walk thru all the pig crap. I guess it was better than nothing, when you got to go you got to go. I pushed the door aside and stepped in. As I started to take a leak some Chinese women saw me as my head and shoulders stuck out above the door, which had no lock and to my surprise the women opened the door to look inside while I was standing there. I smiled, quickly zipped up, and returned to my seat watching the women laugh and giggle. Checking my watch it was now almost midnight and I had been on this stupid animal train over 12 hours. Suddenly the conductor yells stop for Tianjin.
Getting off the train it was snowing and the wind was blowing. Walking thru a tunnel under the tracks to leave the station I noticed a Chinese family huddled in a dark corner, trying to stay warm. They had two little kids and I wanted to help them so I gave them a $100 but the father would not take it. I put the money in the boys pocket and walked away hoping it would help them out. Lucky for me the hotel was just down the street about a half of mile. I walked to it through the two inch deep snow with no boots and went to the front desk. No one was there at 1a.m. so I rang the little bell on the front desk and a guy rolled out from behind the front desk counter rubbing his eyes trying to wake up. I guess he was sleeping. After signing in he gave me a room key but wanted to hold my passport at the front desk. I refused his request and went to my room. There was no way I would part with my passport.
The room was a minus 10 star and had only one light bulb. I had to unscrew the light bulb to use it in the bathroom. I had to take the light bulb room to room. I called the front desk for another bulb but they did not understand why I needed more than one light bulb. I guess in China you only get one light bulb per room. Think about the worst room in the world and then you got the picture of my room. Only a jail room could be worst. There was no heat so I nearly froze to death that night, sleeping with all my clothes on to stay warm. Coming next Part 4 China – Turtle Soup