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Ticket to Kunming and Seamstress Receipt

January 15, 2011
Ticket to Kunming and Seamstress Receipt, originally uploaded by timquijano.

I had a busy day today, I got up around 7:00 to go to the train station to buy tickets. I got to the small ticket seller near the main gate to the university a bit after 8:00, saw the line, and decided to try my luck with the train station. I took the next bus, and the situation was in a similarly distressful condition. Settling down in a line, I opened my backpack to grab some 包子, steamed-bread with vegetables stuffed inside, to the smiles of the Chinese people around me.
After about 2 and a half hours of waiting, I was getting close the window, the end wasn’t insight, but it was getting closer. Then, thinking that a woman was trying to get to the other-side of the line, I let her in front of me, only to realize that she was cutting in line. She chose me, either because I was a foreigner, and she thought I couldn’t speak Chinese (and wouldn’t confront her) or because I wasn’t rubbing up against the woman in front of me (Western conceptions of personal space are much more generous than chinese ones). The people in front and behind me yelled at the lady, we’ve been waiting here for over two hours, go to the back, how are you going to skip right here, don’t you feel awkward. She replied in really heavy dialect to the effect that I couldn’t understand her, refusing to look at me. Then a guy did it again to me, about five minutes later.
As we (the people around you begin to feel like your buddies, spending so much time together, information travels from one to another, you watch the spectacles of angry Chinese yelling at the Ministry of Railroads ticket-sellers) got closer to the window, people starting saying back to us that they weren’t selling tickets for the 24th or the 25th. The standard is known by everyone is that you can buy tickets 10 days in advance, everyone knows this and it is advertised all over the train station, but they were not selling tickets for the 25th until tomorrow, and weren’t going to sell tickets for the 24th until this afternoon at 15:00. F-No!
There was a lot of commotion over this everyone was yelling and screaming, some ladies were pushing each other violently, some lady kept yelling for the cop, who eventually came over, blew his whistle, randomly chose one to yell at, and kicked her out.
I thought, no way was I going home empty-hand. When I arrived at the 12 or so feet in front of the window with chest-high metal barriers to prevent people from skipping in line, this area was completely full of people (at 10:00ish) of people waiting for the 15:00 hour when they would begin selling tickets for the 24th (lets count, yes, that’s nine days in advance from the 15th). I began to get nervous. I had to use the bathroom. This combined with being touched by Chinese people constantly was wearing my morale down. Plus, I hate being watched, and Chinese people love looking to see if/how the foreigner can speak Chinese. Refusing to feel like I had wasted a morning, I soldiered on, deciding to get a ticket two days before I had been planning, the latest that they would sell was the 23rd, an overnight train, arriving in kunming on the 24th. When I got around the people waiting at the front of the line (think of fish in a net, everyone sliding on each other with gore-tex and down-filled jackets-thank god it wasn’t summer, I hate rubbing against sweaty people), I told the lady when and where and how (hard-sleeper) I wanted to go. Spacing out for a minute while she plugged my data into the computer, I looked at a small sign hidden in the front saying something along the lines of 请排队, please line up. That’s doing a lot of good.
After this commotion, I went to the fabrics market. I had received directions that weren’t accurate anymore due to a bus route change, so I walked back and forth by several groups of Chinese people hanging out on the street several times for about an hour, looking for the market. I saw one group, get their vegetables out, cut them, fry them, and finally eat. I asked many people where the 布料市场, fabrics market, was, none of them knew-I think I was asking the wrong people. I asked a middle-aged woman running a newsstand, she said she didn’t know, before beginning to wax poetic about how China has changed, saying that there weren’t many seamstresses anymore. To which I replied 发展发展, development, in a sarcastic manner. Finally, I talked to a 三轮车司机, three-wheeled motorcycle driver, he said he knew the way, and I was tired, so I paid him what I’m sure was too much (5 RMB) to take me to the fabrics market. Here, I found some tweed and flannel, and lining and a seamstress to make me a jacket. Her commission is 100rmb, half paid today, and half paid when I pick it up (before i leave on the 23rd, she’s going to call me on the 21st or 22nd), and the fabric cost me 85rmb. She took my measurements, so it should fit, hopefully it looks right.

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