Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

To Kunming

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The cement mixer started at 6:30 a.m. Sanhao is pouring the top floor of his house today since it's good weather. They only have one day to do it and have to take the best day possible. Of course, this means that he can't take us into Guilin to catch our train to Kunming. So Pam got her brother, Yijian, to do it. But he charges more.

Ruth and I have had a change in plans. We've decided to go to Kunming and Lijiang. So we bought our tickets yesterday for an 18 hour soft sleeper train to Kunming and airplane flight to Lijiang while the Duggan's ate noodles at a roadside shop.

We had a quick breakfast with hashbrowns at one of the restaurants in Longji. They were as fine as lace and as crispy as fresh potato chips.

I headed back to the room while Ruth went to visit Mr. Liao (almost everyone here is surnamed Liao, so it took awhile to locate him) who we met last time. He was so happy to see her. He brought out his album to show her the pictures we sent him of himself and of all of us together. Ruth took a good picture of them with the album.

Ruth was also able to snap a picture of what we had for breakfast, eggs and bacon. She missed the eggs but you can see the bacon here. It's great to get such fresh food.

We asked Maite what she thought of Longji. She short of waxed poetic on me:
"In the morning we were shrouded in mist and I didn't think we'd be able to see the terraces. But the mist lifted like a modest woman who slowly lifted her veil to gradually reveal her beauty to us."

Well said, Maite.

It was time to leave but not before we bought a bracelet for Ruth from on of the Yao girls. Then we hopped in with Yijian and drove to the Guilin airport for Tim and Maite. The drivers have all been taught at the same schools. They drive with madness. They don't slow for children, they honk at them.

We said goodbye to Tim and Maite at the Guilin airport and headed for the train station.

Twenty minutes later Yijian dropped us at the train station. It was mayhem. People everywhere, eating, sleeping, men hacking and spitting on the floor. People use the floor as a garbage can. There are hot water spigots at the train station. Folks buy dried noodles and add the hot water, but the spigot leaks onto the floor adding to the mess.

A woman announces the next train number and time of arrival. To punctuate the urgency she plays a recording of the screeching wheels of a train. Wow, after just 10 minutes in this station I want to scream, but I used earplugs instead. Hey, I just noticed that I'm the only white guy around these parts. Everybody is staring at me. I try to keep myself occupied by doing quick sketches. I found that when I inked in the faces it highlighted their hair, which was interesting.

The large screens are playing a loop of advertisement for the upcoming Olympic games, and it's then that I realize that I haven't seen the news since coming to China. I don't really know what's happening and the sad thing is, I don't really care.

China's public transportation is really amazing. You can reach any place in China via bus, train, or plane. You can catch a bus in a remote village miles from any city. Try that in the U.S. In Georgia I can't even get a bus from Kennesaw to the Atlanta airport just 30 miles away.

Our train arrived but it's a massive effort to hustle our single bag through the gate. People are pushing and shoving. Hey, some are climbing over the seats to jump ahead of us. It really doesn't matter, we have reserved soft sleepers.

A newly married couple has the two berths across from us. The berths come in fours so we purchased an upper and lower and they slept across from us on just the lower. They didn't even use the upper. They didn't speak any English and so we tried to communicate in our Chinese. We asked about their family, where they are from, and if they have any children. We found out that she is six months pregnant.

We arrived in Kunming after a long interrupted sleep. The train was mostly smooth but there were lurches that woke us up. Then it rocked gently and we fell back to sleep.

Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. - Benjamin Disraeli

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