Thursday, October 13, 2005

Daban Friday Morning

I'm in Daban this morning, a city of 100,000 in Inner Mongolia and the western end of steam operations on the Jitong line. Camron is in Beijing awaiting his flight home, which he rescheduled for today after getting another panic attack night before last. Our goodbye was swift. After deciding he needed to go home, all the pieces came together very quickly. Within an hour's time, he was able to change his flight and book a taxi to Beijing, albeit at a considerable price. We're so far from anywhere, yet 48 hours from making the decision to leave, he'll be home.

From here and for the next several days or weeks, I will be traveling with Ron Olsen. Ron is anxious to make more night flash photos and will be better able to do so with an assistant. I'll be helping him carry his flash kit and set up for some of the more complicated photos. Ron has made 13 prior trips to China and speaks very good Chinese. He works as a nurse in the northeastern U.S., so he's a very good person to have around. I'm looking forward to traveling with him.

Before making any more night flash photos, however, Ron wants to bicycle the length of the Jitong line that is still steam powered, 95 miles from Daban to Chabuga, most of it downhill (well planned). We leave tomorrow morning and today I need to go bike shopping. Wish us luck! I may not be able to make another update until after our trip.

Ron was out late last night and I went to bed early, so our paths didn't cross until mid-morning. Before running into him at our binguan (hotel), I decided to take a walk. Normally, I step out of front door and take a few moments to get my bearings. However, stepping out the front door here I was greeted by the sight of about a dozen taxi drivers parked on the sidewalk in front of the binguan, no doubt eager for business. If I've learned one thing in China, it's that standing around with a blank look on our face is a really good way to get solicited. So I marched right past them just I like I knew where I was going.

Of course I hadn't a clue. I was looking for an internet cafe and a post office. I found neither. What I did find was that I just lost unsaved paragraph due to a power failure. Those seem to be common here.

Anyway, what I did find were the three female employees of the local Avon shop standing on the sidewalk in front of their door, prim and proper in their white smocks, music blaring on the speakers behind them, doing their morning exercises. I found countless tiny, puttering, three-wheeled taxis in every color of the rainbow, the oldest very literally held together by bailing wire and duct tape. I found street merchants spreading their wares on blankets in the wide sidewalks, everything from fresh fruits to electronics to some white-green leafy spinach-looking vegetables drying in the sun. I found in the open bed of a three-wheeled truck newly slaughtered pink pig pieces, the intact heads staring up at me with blank, curiously happy-looking eyes. I found, at least I think I found -- I can't be sure in the corner of my eye, a naked women shaking out here bathrobe in her sun-drenched 4th story apartment window. And I found the faint hint of coal smoke wafting over from the railway yard, a sweet smell that will soon be gone.

Back at the binguan, I found Ron and Hans, and they quickly led me to an internet cafe, one of many I'm certain I passed without noticed, too taken in by the sights and smells of Friday morning in Daban. Now it's time for breakfast, then bike shopping.


Anonymous said...

Good luck with you bike trip! I look forward to hearing the details!
I know from experience that its hard enough to ride 100 miles of nice smooth cleveland metroparks roads. Riding on whatever kind of roads they have in rural China is sure to be an adventure. Make sure you pack some spare innterubes!

Anonymous said...



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