I just wrote about the different scale of things here. Case in point:
On Saturday night Song Ying babysat for us. We arranged for her to use our same cab to get home. At 11:00 at night, the ride should have taken about 20 minutes. This morning she told me it took an hour and a half. Here’s why.
She lives near the west train station, where trains depart for destinations all over China. We are right at the beginning of peak travel season — the week before Chinese New Year. Everyone would love to return home for Chinese New Year. Chinese school children get a month off from school. Everyone gets some kind of break. It’s maybe the equivalent of — well, I can’t think of an equivalent. It’s bigger than Christmas. A month off from school. Everyone gets at least three or four days off, many get ten. And everyone really wants to go home. It’s very important to spend the evening before Chinese New Year and New Year’s Day with one’s family.
Okay . . . well . . . there were snow storms in Hunan Province and in Kunming. This shut down the rail lines. Over 100 trains were delayed more than ten hours in arriving in Guangzhou. Song Ying told me, there were 150,000 people stuck at the rail station on Saturday night, waiting for their trains. There was no way for them to get out of the cold weather. The roads where clogged with them.
Water was selling on the streets for 10 RMB (the usual price is 1.5 – 2), and bowls of noodles were 50 RMB (the usual price is 2 – 5). The roads were so congested she couldn’t get through to her home.
Wow! I’d post a picture, but in fact I can’t get one. The line to procure train tickets is over a mile long. You can drive and drive and take five minutes or so of driving to drive past the front of the line. This year, I don’t think I’ll venture to that part of town unless I absolutely have to!
When we took this photo in Suzhou in 2005, we
wanted to illustrate what the crowded train station
looked like. Looking back on it, we didn’t know
what "crowded" was! The above is nothing
compared to the crowds during Chinese New Year!
Look at this:
This photo came from the China Daily Web
link below. Thanks to China Daily for use
of the image. It is very typical of crowds
I have encountered during Chinese New Year —
a very good reason not to travel inside
China during these particular four weeks!
And as a post script . . . guess what? Since I wrote the above little "news flash," Song Ying and I talked some more. She told me that on Saturday night, the taxi tried three different ways of getting her home. It wasn’t just that there were a lot of people, but also police had cordoned off access. And this morning, there was no bus service into her area, either. She had to walk an HOUR to the nearest bus stop so she could catch the bus to my house!
This news article says they are expecting as many as 600,000 people to be stuck at the train station by tonight. I asked Song Ying if she wants to sleep here, and she said no. Maybe she’d better go home early! Right now it’s 45 degrees outside, but it’s a cold and humid 45 degrees. Everybody needs to be in early tonight and eat some hot food! Maybe tomorrow will be a "snow day" for Song Ying. Everybody needs them now and then, right?
And thanks very much to my friend Ruth M. for sending me this link!