For the Guizhou Christmas party, Emma and I took an eight-hour bus ride up to Zunyi, home of Claire, Avery, Jason, and Beccy. Our ride up was uneventful and we spent the majority of the trip curled up in our giant coats reading our books. I finished Shantaram which is a wonderful book that gives alternating gruesome and beautiful depictions of Bombay. We arrived and walked from the bus station to meet the rest of the gang for lunch and then back to Claire’s house. It was cold in Zunyi but that was offset by the warmth of our friendship and our awesome, kick-ass coats. We spent the evening catching up, eating sugar cookies, going out for hot pot, and watching “Christmas Vacation.”
We spent the next morning cooking and preparing for our big Christmas dinner. I was on mashed potato duty. We started drinking early at about 1pm and I vastly improved my god-awful fruit-juice wine by mulling it with cinnamon and nutmeg. With everyone gathered together, we made our way over to Beccy’s large apartment on the other side of town. Once there, we had a delicious feast of soup, green beans, duck, cornbread, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. After dinner we did our white elephant/footsie-stompy gift exchange. Footsie-stompy is how we resolve the dilemma of somebody wanting to steal another’s gift. The challenger and the present holder must hold hands and try to step on their opponent’s foot. The first person to land the killer blow, is the winner and the loser must pick a new gift from the pile.
By the end of the gift exchange I was exhausted and ready to go home but everyone else wanted to go dancing. We all met up at the 88 Club and ran that place like it was our job. Zunyi locals were buying us drinks while we danced on the raised platforms. Everyone had a great time but as we were leaving I realized I had missed a call from a friend of mine. She had come to the Christmas party in Zunyi but had to forgo dancing in order to catch a train back to Guiyang. From Guiyang she had to catch a flight across the country. I had put her into a taxi with instructions for how to get to the train station about an hour and a half earlier but now her text message to me read: “something went wrong”. Claire called her back and found out that there were no trains going in or out of Zunyi that night. By this point it was about 3:00 o’clock in the morning and half of our group were already asleep. Claire went to the train station and figured out that the tracks were broken and that my friend’s only way to make her flight would be to take what we call a “black cab” back to Guiyang. Black Cabs are illegal transportation that serve as an alternative to trains, buses, or taxis. The black cabbies often wait outside of train stations and bus stations, waiting to take advantage of people who are unfamiliar with the area. I have heard several stories of people being gassed and robbed in black cabs and other stories of people being killed after choosing this mode of transport.
My friend does not have a lot of confidence in her Chinese and she is a tiny girl. Claire wanted to see if any of the Guiyang volunteers would be willing to go with her since my friend was very nervous about taking a black cab by herself. Most were asleep and the ones who were awake did not want to go. I had already bought my ticket back to Xingyi and knew that a trip to Guiyang would be completely out of the way. Still everyone decided that it was a bad idea for the girl to go on her own. Finally, with nobody else willing to go, I asked Emma to try to sell my bus ticket and agreed to go to Guiyang. Tired, annoyed, and still a little inebriated, I arrived at the train station and found Claire haggling with a gaggle of cab drivers over the price of the trip. It took a long time but we eventually settled on six hundred RMB for a ride from Zunyi to Guiyang. The man who drove us was tiny but determined and we spent the next two hours driving and listening to Chinese music in his little sedan. I was so tired that I kept dozing off but my friend tried to keep me awake in order to talk to our driver who showed serious signs of fatigue.
We eventually arrived at the Guiyang airport and I said goodbye to my friend. From there, the driver took me to the train station where I had to wait for some time for a city bus. At six in the morning, Guiyang was painfully cold and I’d never been more thankful for my military surplus trench coat. The bus took me to the long-distance bus station and by 7:25am I was on a bus bound for Xingyi. I almost immediately fell asleep and did not wake up until our first stop about an hour and a half into the journey. After that I slept intermittently while the driver blasted two “Rambo” movies on the bus’s television screens. About six hours later I was pulling into Xingyi and finally got some proper rest.
The next day I was still feeling the effects of that sleepless night but I am happy to say I helped my friend make her flight.