April 11, 2009

Strongarmed to Stretch

China and the Silk Road still carry an air of danger and mystique as a route that, long ago, was riddled with bandits and, more recently, as a remote place that the police would sometimes deny foreigners access to. I had heard a story of a particular leg of the Southern road where police would literally pull foreigners off the bus and send them back in the direction from which they came.
I wasn't quite on the Silk Road yet, but I was starting my 24 hour train journey towards it with Ryan from Canada. As we sat in the dining car, the train stopped at a station. We still had quite a ways to go so we continued with our dinner and our conversation, but were interupted by a man who seemed to be signaling us to get off the train. He was followed by a few women in uniform who were standing on the platform, all waving their arms at us. We got worried that maybe we had to get off and take another train, even though that didn't make sense. So we started a mad dash toward our bags ten cars down. Along the way we found someone who spoke a little bit of English and conmfirmed that, indeed, we were on the right train and there were no connecting ones. Confused, we went back to the dining car where the man was waiting in front of the open door. Upon seeing me he leapt up, grabbed my arm and pulled me down onto the platform.

I thought I was going to get robbed again. I thought the Silk Road bandits had found me and my booty (no, not my butt - my new ipod). I thought we were going to be kicked right back in the direction we came until......he started doing exercise charades?
That's right. He was forcing us to stretch!
This man was not interested in our wallets or passports, my ipod or direction through China. His only concern was that we remain limber during the long ride. As soon as we understood what he wanted from us, and our startled expresions turned into complete hysterics, we obliged and stood doing Chinese Platform Calisthenics until it was time to depart.

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