October 14, 2012

I settled myself in after barely making it on the plane in Kuala Lumpur. Once I got on the plane, I check myself to make sure I didn’t lose anything (as if I could do anything about it, the plane was taking off in 2 minutes). A heavy set man sits down next to me, and I pass out as soon as I can. Anything I can do to get myself into dreamland before takeoff was the goal.

I always had dreams of making a good blog, but to tell you the truth I realized that a majority of people in the world will live life never even knowing what a blog is. The dream I had while en route to South Korea reminded me of some of these people:

Whilst making my way to the wilderness known as Tibet, I took a chance to hang out with the ‘coach’ section of the train. I stepped out my sleeper cabin and meandered down to the general population, balancing myself from the natural rocking of the train. From sleeper car 7 I passed the restaurant car 9 and made my way to car 11. The kitchen separates the rich and the poor. Few people eat in the restaurant car, chinese people mostly pack bags of food to be consumed during the ride. Most of the trash ends up on the train floor. Workers routinely come by with a broom to sweep up all the wrappers, plastic cups, and chicken bones thrown on the floor. Anyway car 11 had a train worker telling a boisterous story. It was in mandarin so I didn’t understand, but everyone else in the car was facing him and was listening intently, periodically yelling comments to accent the story. The story lasted a good 20 minutes and seemed pretty funny, judging from crowd reaction. These are the things people miss if they slept in their sleeper car all day. A sense of community in the middle of a train car in communist China! After the story was over, the worker started hawking beaded jewelry relating to the story he just told. Straight up government sponsored hawking. All hawking is outlawed on trains, and so I guess the government took that opportunity to fleece riders by having a monopoly on selling cheap goods.

As I ventured on to the higher numbered cars, I noticed it got dirtier and dirtier. Han Chinese started filtering out and Tibetans started to pepper the scene. Tibetans usually don’t speak as much and when they do they lean into the listener. I stumbled upon a Tibetan thug smoking. Obviously a “no smoking” sign written in Chinese and Tibetan didn’t stop him. So I sit down and light one up next to him and he points at the sign. He points at the sign with his cigarette while smiling. Some background, Han Chinese don’t really bother the Tibetans on the train, as not to provoke them. Most Tibetans harbor aggression towards Han Chinese and so to keep the harmony the train workers generally don’t hassle Tibetans. So he was sitting and waiting. What was he waiting for? Well as the train gets closer to Tibet (the last stop) there’s more and more space on the train. So a shrewd train rider would be alert to scavenge a nice row of empty seats to sleep on, once it becomes open. He was smoking and waiting for the chinese guy next to him to get off at the next stop, so that he can lay down. Once he lays down to go to sleep, nobody can bother him to sit in one of the seats. It’s just one of the rules I learned on the train. Don’t wait someone up, even if the person is sleeping in your seat. There’s plenty of empty seats out there go sit there.

Anyway this Tibetan dude had low quality tattoos all over his arm and clearly wasn’t one to be messed with. He showed me his snazzy cigarette case, that dispenses one at a time. I show my interest for the novelty. The next thing he did kind of amazed me. He pointed at the hole in my jacket and told me to take it off. He grabs it, and takes out a fucking SEWING KIT and proceeds to mend the hole in my jacket. Here’s this dude looking like he about to choke a mother fucker. He had tats and spit on the traincar red carpet looking like he could puncture my abdomen at any moment. Instead, he’s with a needle and thread mending my shit up! Masculinity is definitely defined differently everywhere. Who knew sewing was gangster?

On my way out of Hong Kong to Bangkok, I sat next to an Ethiopian man looking like Don Cheadle but fatter. The Ethiopian man and I talked about African politics, which drew leers from an African woman dressed in a full dashiki. The man turned out to be a lawyer, who invited me for a place to stay. I promised we would share some bee honey moonshine he was raving about. I’m sure he can care less what a blog is.

A guy who would probably know what a blog is, is the gentleman I played cards with whilst flying from Xinjiang to Beijing. He taught me how to play the “landlord game” the most popular game for the Chinese I suppose. What was fascinating was that he never had formal english training but was able to hold a conversation with me in full english. He learned how to speak english solely through computer programming, his profession. This led to quirky conversational gems. So when he spoke he used terms like ‘goto’ and used a lot of if/then statements. It was like talking to a computer. I should have file/saved the conversation.

Equally interesting is the Chinese girl who graduated university in accounting that speaks in accounting terms. She was telling me about her boyfriend who isn’t a good arr-oh-eye (ROI, return on investment). And that his projected growth is less than the nominal rate. English is truly an adaptable language. I understood what she meant, but it was just strange.

I waking up groggy, the man next to me is still eating, aigoooo….
Yet, nothing stops me from feeling great, South Korea is the most connected place in the world. People definitely know what a blog is here.

Over the PA – Welcome to Incheon International Airport. Local time in Seoul is 7:38am…