A Needle and Thread

I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the train station recently. Monday we had planned on booking our two train tickets: one to Xi’an and one to Beijing, for our final week of travelling. After quite a while in line and some frustrating conversation only in Chinese we found out that we could only book two days in advance.

Wednesday we went back to book our Friday tickets. We were set again with passports, money, and the train we wanted. Finally we got up to the desk only to find out that the train we wanted was standing room only. We managed to work out getting 5 sleepers on an earlier train. The train was at 4:50 and we would take our final exam, go to the completion ceremony at 1:30, check out of our dorms and be on our way.

The only trouble which remained was the fact that we were still going to have to wait to book our train ticket to Beijing. Last night we had decided to go to the station between the exam and the ceremony to buy our tickets, then would come back, check out of our dorms and then go back in the afternoon for our late afternoon 19 hour train to Xi’an.

What we found out is that many people buy up all the tickets and resell them at astronomical prices. By this time we had been looking into a flight. This morning we began the process of booking a domestic flight. (Which is difficult to do because we don’t have a Chinese credit card).

With everything in process we packed up the remaining items we had, bought a deck of cards for our long day and night of travel, and headed off to the station to get to Xi’an.

I brought only carry-on with me: one suitcase that doubles as a suitcase and an extra bag for my computer and a few books. Over the course of the month I’ve accumulated some extra stuff, some of which I managed to throw out: a pair of flip flops (covered in the dirt of 2 foreign countries, the beach, Disney world, and Colorado), two towels, an umbrella, my scary mug which cost $.47 and has weird bunnies on it, and the remaining disposable chopsticks. I’ve accumulated 2 additional pairs of shoes, 2 Shanghai University polos, a mug for souvinier purposes, an extra textbook, some movies (yay for movies that were filmed in the theater and cost $.16 with bad English subtitles), a traditional Qi Pao (dress), 什么的。 My luggage is now quite heavy.

We went through security and I was fumbling with so many heavy straps on my bags that I managed to bust the string to my wallet sized purse from Guatemala (that I stole back from my sister and everyone says it looks like Yunan province) which carries all my important documents and money. I was trying to mess with it as we walked through the station looking for our terminal. Christy began asking and asking.

Finally we step up to one counter and find out that the reason we can’t find our terminal is because it is now 3pm and our train left at 14:50… or 2:50pm not 4:50 like the lady at the desk had told us a few days prior. We were all shocked that none of us had noticed the time on the ticket. I’m not surprised at myself. The ticket said the date in Chinese followed by the time of the train which just looked like 1450开。

We stood near the wall and dumped all our luggage on the ground and began discussing our options. Suddenly we had no way to Xi’an, no place to go, and everyone was a little shocked and stressed. I felt very removed from the situation. Luckily Valerie took action by calling Luo Laoshi, our beloved program director and practically mother. We are so thankful for everything she has done for us during the course of this trip.

The rest of us sat down on the floor and just started praying that God would keep us safe and together and work everything out. This trip to Xi’an was so much trouble.

Christy and Valerie took action and left Jamie, James, and I with all the luggage while they went back to the station to figure out what could be done. I think all with Luo still on the phone. Wednesday my experience at the train station had me extremely upset and that’s when we thought we had the tickets. This time I felt very little, I was really only still worried about the small problem of my tiny purse strap.

I walked off into some shops and asked quite a few shopkeepers for a needle and thread. This morning during the test I couldn’t remember some very simple words, but yet I was able to communicate exactly what I needed for this obscure task. Finally having bought some needles and thread for 5 kuai, I went back to the guys and our luggage and began sewing the strap back on in the middle of the station.

Amazingly we were able to get almost all of our money refunded. Still at a loss for what to do or where to go, I was sure that we could go back to Yanchang and to the dorms, there we would be able to talk to Luo laoshi, use the computers in the lobby, and most-likely have a place to stay.

We made our sweaty subway ride (those things are PACKED with people) back to the stop and then walked a block back to campus. The whole time I was concerned about the fact that all of my stuff was so perfectly packed and that I’d thrown away my extra towel and to use the one I had would mean dirty laundry, but that I really wanted a shower.

Thankfully by the time I got back Christy and Valerie had already been working with Luo laoshi. We were able to cancel our reservations in Xi’an and our plane from Xi’an to Beijing had fallen through any. After much conversation and deliberating we bought plane tickets directly to Beijing, from where I will leave on the 15th to come back home.

Just so you know, I am doing laundry–again. I did it yesterday as well. Now EVERYTHING is clean. I’m waiting for it to finish drying. I also got my shower.

I’ve learned two things today: 1. God protects us. I’m not really sure why Xi’an didn’t work out but he miraculously is getting everything figured out for us to get to Beijing. It has not been without stress but despite the trouble, I know I can trust him.
2. When I’m faced with an overwhelming amount of stress in a situation I can remain calm about that because I will most-likely be pre-occupied with some much smaller detail. Such as my laundry or needing a needle.

Possibly re-thinking my desire to be on the amazing race… still. All these experiences are for some purpose 😉

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