Shengliver’s Note: This entry is almost a decade old.


An Intro


Xiao Bing is one of the lovely honest teens in my class. Born in a village and attending high school in town, he seems maturer than many of his city-born city-reared fellow students. A good knowledge of the gap between country and city motivates him to work hard.


Reading his journal is like taking a journey into his life. I read about his fishing trips taken around the home village, his drunken uncle and idle cousin in the city, and his farmer relatives working as migrant workers in other parts of the country. Life is hard on him, but I bet he will grow into a capable Chinese man in time. Hardship makes a man; ease a coward, as a Chinese saying goes.


The First Train Journey


Mr Xiao, one summer vacation in middle school, went to Guangzhou by train from my city. He had never taken a train before. That summer, his family members were working in that prosperous South Chinese town the way Chinese migrant workers do.


He, together with one of his cousins and his uncle, boarded the train at the station here in the city. The first train journey is always an exciting affair. Mr Xiao’s was no exception.


After travelling on the train for some hours, Mr Xiao came to realise that they were totally unprepared for the journey. To begin with, they had failed to get a regular ticket. Their tickets allowed them to stand there all the way. No one was willing to offer them a seat. Even though their legs ached and backs hurt, there was no place for them to sit down and rest a while. When they were no longer able to support themselves there in the aisle, or in the connecting corridor between two cars, they had to sit down on the floor, as many of the travellers did. Mr Xiao noticed that some seasoned passengers were comfortably settled on a little plastic stool they carried along themselves. “If only I had such a stool!” the boy said to himself.


Another problem was food. It being their first train journey, a lack of experience left them on the train with no food at all. They had not bought anything to eat before they got aboard. Poor lad. When it was mealtime, other passengers were either enjoying a meal offered in the restaurant car or eating what they had bought before boarding. Mr Xiao had to stand the hunger. He did not buy any food on the train, believing that meals on Chinese trains were dirty and dear.


The next problem was sleep. At night, the three of them had to sit on the floor and snuggle against each other. They took turns to doze, for they had been told that Chinese trains are crawling with thieves. When it was Mr Xiao’s turn to keep watch, he found it was very boring indeed. He could not do anything but watch his dear watch. His eyes followed the second hand as it ticked away. Time was killed this way.


Boredom was Mr Xiao’s companion on the way to the south. Day was easier to cope with than night. During the day, Mr Xiao looked out of the window and appreciated the passing landscapes in other parts of China. He said he saw the famous lake, Dongtinghu, for the first time. “It is breath-taking,” he commented. But night was harder to bear. In the small hours, no one was talking. He could hear nothing but the train wheels running on tracks, clackety-clack, clackety-clack. Those with a seat slept on it. Those without one slumbered anywhere they could, on the floor, leaning against the wall, or simply lying under a seat. “What a spectacular scene!” Mr Xiao exclaimed.


After travelling about 23 hours, they arrived at the destination, Guangzhou. Mr Xiao’s experience on the train is shared by a lot of Chinese. And the lad is a good learner. He found it was an educational trip. Next time he takes a train, he will know what to do. What he witnessed on the train opened his eyes to the reality of Chinese society and helped him to form a real picture of his great motherland.


Good luck, lad.


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