Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Small Challenge

One of the biggest challenges I face as a PC volunteer both in Africa and in China is traveling to and from the Peace Corps office.

In Africa especially Guinea, the trip was long, dusty, hot and squished. It would take at least two days, one day to get out of site, and one day to get down to Conakry. In Burkina Faso, the trip was a lot easier except for all of the sitting and waiting since the one bus to and from my site never had a reliable schedule.

Unlike Africa, China has paved roads. One might assume that transportation in China would be a lot easier and in many places it is. From my site though, the route just makes me sick, literally sick. It might be the drivers who speed and stop weaving at unpredictable rates, making a 2 lane road into a 4 lane road as slow trucks are passed. It might be the windows that don't open with warm air flowing out of the ac system. It might be the noise pollution blaring from the DVD player. Whatever it is, a wide mouth nalgene bottle is useful when no plastic bags are available.

A bus from my city can take two routes, the fast highway or the slow road that passes through a bunch of tiny towns looking for passengers. One route can be as fast as 3-5 hours while the other can be anywhere from 5-8 hours. Whether you take the freeway or the slow roads, there is no bypassing the hill. The hill is terrible where the pavement has been scraped off leaving a washboard of a road.

If you hit the hill at the wrong time, be prepared to wait for 30 minutes as 20 workers spread several inches of black sticky tar. Then wait for another 30 minutes as a rolling pin tractor smooths it flat. The last wait will be another 20 minutes as the traffic reorganizes itself from the mess it made while waiting impatiently.

Once traffic is stopped by a road block, cars don't stay in their lane. Instead they move out of their lane and speed forward until they hit the road block. A two lane road turns into a one way street. Two one way streets meet at the road block, a wall of headlights with a mountain on one side and a ravine on the other. Then what? Another 20 minutes for the cars to rearrange themselves into passable lanes.

This is not the worse of it. The bus then makes it the outskirts of Xian and sometimes drops you off at a bus station and sometimes at some random corner in Xian. At both places one has to take a 30-40 minute local bus into downtown Xian where the train station is located.

The whole trip takes FOREVER and my weary mood cannot be cheered up even with a delicious steak salad, one of the best I have ever tasted.

Once I make it to the train station, I have a 16 hour trip down to Chengdu then a 50 minute local bus ride to the university, then a 30 minute walk to the office.

This is the trip I took on Sunday to get a flu shot and to bring back a flu shot for my sitemate.

Instead of returning by train and making the trek over 2 days, PC decided to fly me back to Xian. At 6 am, I had to hike 40 minutes to the local bus that takes an hour to get to the airport. I wanted to be early in case I had problems getting the syringe and medicine through security. The flight was only an hour and a half, but the Xian airport is miles outside of Xian. I had to take an hour bus ride into Xian, stand in a line going out the door to buy a bus ticket and then trek home sitting on a bus for 6 hours. Luckily the bus was full so instead of driving on the slow road passing through towns we rode to the end of the freeway, got caught up in a hour of roadwork, made it up the hill and finally arrived at site at 7 pm. It was a long day.

Guess what, I am going back to Chengdu tomorrow for a week long vacation. Why do I torture myself? Lucky for PC though, coz while I am on vacation, they can give me a vaccination that they forgot when I was there on Monday.

1 comment:

alison said...