I wanted to do a better job of telling the story of our travels as we were travelling, but when I had time online, it wasn't something I felt like doing or really had the time to do. So, let's go back a little over two weeks to just before my sister and brother in law came into town. It was the last week of school and one of my student friends (to the left, with her little cousin) really wanted me to go to her hometown with her. I told her that I had to be back Wednesday morning to pick up my sister and brother in law at the airport. So, she skipped a few days of class (not because I asked her to, but because she really wanted to take me home with her) and we set off Monday night to her hometown.
We spent about 10 hours on the train. (Hard seats that don't recline = never actually a good idea if you're travelling overnight, but I did it because I was travelling with a student.) At the train station convenience store before we left, my friend asks for magazines. The lady pulls a not so new looking stack of them out from under the counter and my friend purchases one. Color cover. Black and white newsprint on the inside. I wonder why she wanted to read this instead of a good book. We step back outside and it suddenly feels a little like Europe or something. The night has cooled off, there are people out enjoying it, food stands. I don't know. Weird feeling.
After the 10 hour train ride, we had another hour on the bus and then about 20 minutes by taxi to get to her house. She told me that the grandparents usually use Korean and the rest of the family usually speaks in Chinese, but that they will try to use all Korean while I'm there. When we get there, we're fed rice and side vegetable dishes for breakfast (quite good, actually) and then I am ushered to someone's bedroom and told to rest. The rest of the family catches up in the living room, and even though I am not too tired, I take the opportunity. After a nap, the granddad talks to me and compliments me on my Korean, but actually I can't understand a lot of what he says. We eat lunch and then take a motorbike ride to the little village nearby where my friend grew up.
After some visiting, then dinner, we went by bike to a nearby lake, watched the sun set, and then it was time for me to go. I was a little sad I could only spend one day, but then I don't know what I would have done with more time. Her family doesn't have a car, so they asked "the richest man in town" if they could borrow a car. He ended up leading the way in his car all the way to the train station and then the train was delayed and they were worried about leaving me there because they said everyone in the train station was staring at me. I finally convinced them that I was going to be alone on the train anyhow, so they might as well go. They did, after buying me some green tea and sausage.
I wanted to get a sleeper on the way back, so we asked about that, but I found out that not only did they not have sleepers, but they didn't have seats. That was very sad news. My friend assured me that I would get a seat once I got on. I didn't. I sat in the restaurant until they kicked me out, and then one really nice guy who had pity on me gave up his seat to go look for another one. I took it without feeling guilty more than a few minutes. It was a long ride, with an old gramaw taking the chance to pinch my arms whenever she made eye contact, but I made it to Yanji and then to the airport only about 20 minutes before Laura and John Mark arrived. I was one dirty and sticky sister to greet them, but we were all happy anyhow.