10:30PM, lights out, bedded down… 5:00AM arrives early.
Especially as Binhai opts to further extend the Spring Festival explosions to belay my sleep, I drop off, eventually…
Binhai reminds me how small of a town it is as a car alarm goes off to wake me up… twice. Remember when a car alarm caused people to stop and stare? I’d nearly forgotten too. Then some industrious jerkwad decides 2:30AM equals the perfect time to rummage through garbage pins for bottles or start a steel drum band. Let’s complete the night of no sleep with a truly odd dream that culminates in a latino kid in sequined white shirt and sequined gold tie trying to get me to sign him to an eight year contract for… something.
Sometimes my creativity hates me.
5:00AM sets my alarm buzzing at me and I stagger through my morning routine, in this case, juice, water, coffee, brushed teeth, more coffee, descend. I don’t even notice the rubble strewn in front of the entryway from the rennovations going on in the apartment next to me.
A brisk, cold shuffle to the bus terminal finds me abroad the 6:00AM bus to make trip to Nanjing for something regarding my Alien Registry Card or the Chinese equivalent. My English liaison in Nanjing warned me of the bad weather. Binhai remains cold but that’s nothing new. As dawn finally breaks the deep blue of the Chinese winter night I realize just what she meant by ‘bad weather’. Overnight the landscape south of Binhai disappears under a blanket of white, wet, deep snow. Hard to gauge in a moving bus, but at least six inches of snow swallows up the countryside.
The normal five hour journey turns into a hazardous six and a half and I’m perfectly content with a seat in the middle of the bus and trying to doze away the hours… semi-conscious never felt so secure. At the mid-way service station I can’t work up the appetite for the roadside snacks on offer. Stretching my legs, the sight of a snow-plow moving at 50 KMs/hour doesn’t plow snow as much as explosively disperse it. Good thing I didn’t venture closer to the highway.
Mercifully we arrive at the bus station in Nanjing along with apparently EVERY other bus on the road, around the depot more buses stand ready than taxis.
I call Tina (my liaison) and inform her of my plight, she freaks me the hell out by telling me that I need to get to the school because the doctor needs to see me regarding a medical emergency.
What The Fuck?
Why am I just finding this out now? Where is a bloody taxi? And…
I get to the campus, no Tina. I call her and she is at the hospital. Oh fer fuck’s sake. Turns out it was a communication error. She’s fine. I’m fine. Someone came back from Cambodia with a minor issue that is being dealt with.
Now I can go grab some food. Gimbap, delicious gimbap. How I’ve missed you. Wisely I buy two servings. Now and for the dinner. Gimbap reminds of one of my favourite mini-experiences with my parents in Korea where in Suwon, a lovely lady tried to teach Mom how to make it.
Tina escorts me to the Entry-Exit building in Nanjing. I love that China devotes a whole department to Entry-Exit or Exit-Entry of Foreign Nationals. It has just the right number of pointless words that could be summed up in one… Immigration, or two Work Permits.
Inside I go and meet one lady who takes my passport to compare with my Chinese Alien Booklet.
Then on to officer number two who… took a paper.
Now I sit for policeman three, but only for 30 seconds, he snaps a picture of me on webcam and we head back to the college.
For any other English Teacher, today’s episode happens between classes. My day, not half done.
I hop back in another cab, head back to another bus station. (It wasn’t as busy).
For reasons unknown to me, the Nanjing-Binhai route drops off one place, picks up at another. At both ends. Which, when new in a country just adds to the fun and confusion.
The bus departs at 5:00PM, it leaves only 20 minutes late. Inside the terminal are fewer people and fewer complaints.
The storm which snarled traffic passed overnight, the sun beams down and the main roads are cleared, the work crews continue to shift the snow about hoping more will melt before likely freezing over night. Trucks travel the streets, cutting off and collecting the multitude of branches snapped overnight during the unseasonably heavy snowfall. The snow plows shove the mix of snow, slush and melt-water.
The backtrack to Binhai proves thankfully uneventful and pretty much on time. The route must to be totally different as the moonlit vision that races past the bus looks unlike anything I saw in my trips south.
I make it back into my apartment just before 11:00PM, I’ve been on the go for 18 hours for 15 minutes of actual required governmental business.
Who else wants to be a traveller?
It’s not always easy, but I love it.