Saturday, August 06, 2005

Cora, Cora, Bo Bora

Between Chengdu and Kunming, China

I just finished my breakfast of peanuts, cookies and water, and I'm squeezed into my little cubby-hole, clacking away on my laptop. Life wasn't always this good. 12 hours ago, Mike and I thought we were going to spend our entire 19-hour train ride stuck in the "hard seat" section. Imagine a full coach flight with about 20% less room, a stinkier, smokier cabin, and the requirement that you carry all of your luggage with you. For 19 hours. Add to that the fact that we had gone out drinking the night before, and you might get an idea how little we were looking forward to our stint. Once again, the People's Golden Ratio asserted itself.
This little lemma theorizes that for every one hundred people you meet in China that are rude, obnoxious, inconsiderate, gross or just generally unlike-able, there is one who is a saint.
Yesterday, our saint was Cora.
Because of forces beyond our control, we had to purchase hard seat tickets for our trip to Kunming; a day later than expected, no less. But, we were told that it would be easy to get them changed on the train for some sleeper tickets. Apparently, by easy, the travel agent meant impossibly hard. As soon as we boarded, there was a crush of people clamoring to get on the upgrade list. The Chinese are already fairly inconsiderate when it comes to queuing up for services, but this was a madhouse. By the time I realized what was going on, there were already sixty people ahead of us in the waiting list, and the attendant said that there was no way we would be able to get our upgrade.
Enter the Cora.
I was waiting in the Space Between Trains, trying to figure out how to extricate Mike and myself from this mess, when she said hello and started a pleasant conversation with me. I was trying to be polite, but I was also mightily distracted by my little logic puzzle. We talked a bit about where I was from, what I was doing in China... the standard stuff. However, as soon as she found out that I was waiting for an upgrade, she immediately offered her help. She became a fierce advocate for the lao mei. She spent almost two hours (of her four-hour trip) waiting with me, trying to register my ticket numbers and talking to the attendant. She was doing everything she could do get us some sleeper tix. Finally, she managed to sweet-talk a deal (she's a real estate agent by trade) with the man in charge of the upgrade distributions, and Mike and I found ourselves "movin' on up to a dee-lux apartment in the sky-eye-hi". Well, not really deluxe. Mike got a soft sleeper (4-person cabin), and I got a hard sleeper (refugee-camp style). But, it was better than a back-breaking 19-hour slump that the hard-seats would have been.
I hung out with Cora and her friend Jen for about an hour, chatting about more relaxing topics such as her hometown and the purpose of the OC. But, eventually, I had to scramble back to my new sleeper spot, before they resold it.
We have Cora's contact info, though, and she and Jen may meet us in Yangshou.


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