Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Oh, the joys and challenges of communication

Ron did not make the trip to Zhengzhou as I reported yesterday. When he got to the train station last night, he found that his ticket had been made out wrong. You have to get tickets in advance in order to get a sleeper car. He is sure he wrote down the correct day he wanted to travel but somehow the ticket agent did not understand. From now on, he will carefully check each ticket before he leaves the agent's desk. To get another ticket last night, it was "standing room" only on the train, so he returned home and will try for another day.

The crowd of people in China is what strikes Americans as unusual. The vast number of people in China is too much for all of the transit systems. We rode buses and subways in Montreal, Canada and sometimes they were very full, but nothing compared to the total number of people crowded into every bus and subway train here. It is difficult to believe that so many people travel on every cross-country train and local subway train every mintue of the day and night. It does not matter when you travel, it's the same thing.

Some of the signs posted will have the English name of the city or station but others are totally in Chinese. I am never sure if we are going in the right direction or have taken the right train but Ron knows enough to figure it out. It would be very difficult for anyone to get around without a guide here unless they had been here as many times as Ron. I think this is his 40th trip to China.

With the subways so packed, we are careful that both of us get on and get off at the same time. With the crowds pushing and rushing, we sometimes get separated so we watch each other to be sure we are making the same changes. I'm not a very adventuresome person so I would not know how to get back to a location if I got separated from Ron. Few people can speak enough English to really help with directions. If Ron wanted to lose an old wife, this is the place he can do it.

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