They Mostly Come at Night. Mostly.

Sleeping on Chinese Train

Around 3 a.m., I felt a soft tickle across my lips, then on my cheek.

Something was up. Either the Chinese girl sleeping in the top bunk about four feet away from me had grown frisky, or I had another visitor in the darkness. I instinctively reached up and crushed something as it made its way across my forehead.

It was a cockroach.

Traveling in China is not always for the faint of heart, so I wasn’t really as bothered by it as I should have been. I made a mental note to wash my hands in the morning and tried to salvage what I could of my sleep. I don’t know what made me look, instinct maybe, but I turned my torch on and tentatively looked around. In the glow of the orange night filter, I could see another one of the bastards sitting on my chest, twitching his antennae at me.

A quick scan around revealed five more of the sneaky bastards on some sort of covert mission. They were clinging to the walls around me like they owned the place. I know the buggers can supposedly survive nuclear warfare, but they didn’t have much luck with me and my Maglight that night. It was a massacre.

And so, my 32-hour hard-sleeper train from Chengdu to Beijing was semi-comfortable — at least compared to a hard-seat ticket — but infested. No biggie. One more month here in China and I will probably be eating the damn things. If I haven’t done so already.

I was slightly more prepared for this train journey than the last.

I purchased a bag of groceries, including the ubiquitous buckets of just-add-hot-water noodles the Chinese seem to live on while traveling. Most people would recognize it as a big bucket of Ramen with the small MSG-rich flavor pack added for your body’s enjoyment. I also brought my usual oranges. I have been eating at least two a day — I have the orange-stained fingers to prove it — and I think they have helped me to fend off some of the nasties that go around here. I haven’t been sick since I quit training kung fu over a month ago. Go figure.

My last night in Chengdu was fantastic. Maki, Sim’s wife from Sim’s Guesthouse, treated myself and some close friends to dinner at an incredible vegetarian restaurant. She was such a sweetheart, and staying at Sim’s is really what made my stay in Chengdu so memorable. I was there eight days and never saw a Panda or any “Panda Porn” at the famous breeding center here. Oh well, there’s always the Discovery Channel!

Before leaving, I added a few more sad goodbyes in Chengdu to my long list which has been growing over the last two years. Unfortunately, goodbyes come with the job, but they never gets easier. Even worse, I never seem to learn my lesson. I still grow attached to people and places, knowing that there is a clear end in sight. However, there is some comfort in knowing that I am a richer, more enlightened person after meeting these people.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Ulysses:

“…for I am a part of all who I have met.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

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5 Responses to “They Mostly Come at Night. Mostly.”



  1. Maybe it’s good luck, like when a gecko falls on you in Thailand…

  2. I got excited for you, with the opening lines of the Girl getting frisky. I was a little disappointed to see it was a cockroach. Maybe you’ll have better luck next time? 🙂

  3. I am glad it wasn’t the girl getting frisky! (your girlfriend!)

  4. I have an idea, why dont you build a campfire and sing a couple songs.

  5. That’s a beautiful quote! …and your roach story is quite vivid 😉

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