When the canned music switched on in my first-class train compartment at 7AM, I was still more than an hour outside of Xi’an, China’s ancient capital—and the music still annoyed me. I sat up, leaned over the bunk across the aisle to the switchboard and turned off the music. This scene has repeated itself on numerous sleeper trains during my China travels, and today was no different.
Yet when the train came to a stop in Xi’an and stepped into one of the three provinces I had yet to set foot in, the fact that I would be leaving China in nine days started to dawn on me. Suddenly, the weight of my three bags and my quixotic quest to bring out my guitar in one piece seemed lighter, easier.
With so many bags to hold on to, I shifted my cell phone into the same pocket that my wallet was in. I used my free hand to cover my pocket from thieves patrolling the chaotic train station as I always have when entering faraway train stations. Yet besides my pre-cautions against thieves, most everything else was changing. Things that for two years ground on my consciousness now seemed funny, cute, in an “Oh, that crazy China!” way.
Soon enough, the man shouting “Laowai!” at the foreigner overloaded with bags seemed to be chirping birdsong instead of singling out a foreigner. As an elderly woman’s flying loogie nearly missed my sandaled feet, I smiled and nodded. “Morning Taitai!”
I’ve loved living in China; I’m sad to leave; and I’m certain I will be back. But that doesn’t change the fact that some of China’s rough edges wear on me. Yet these travails lose their weight and become almost humorous when you face the door.