Ends and Beginnings

21 08 2011

My life has been moving at a breakneck pace over the past two weeks. I feel a bit scattered as to how the best way to go about explaining the series of events, but I guess the best way to start would be chronological. It’s worth the read through, I promise, as it all comes together for the big reveal…

So our journey begins in Shenzhen about a week and a half ago as I had another visa run to take care of. Shenzhen is literally a footbridge walk away from Hong Kong, and crossing the border meant not getting deported, fined, and hassled. I’d only planned on staying for a day, and the plane ride back was exorbitantly expensive. Instead, I opted to take the 23 hr. train ride back to Beijing, which would’ve proved taxing as is. But…I had to get a last minute ticket, which meant no seat. Yes, no assigned seating for a 23 hr. journey. I boarded the train, and quickly claimed myself a tiny, 3 ft. by 3 ft. nook behind a swinging door, and nested myself down amongst traveling farmers and migrant laborers.


Crowded is an understatement. Huddled masses sprawled across every available square inch. I went 23 hrs. without eating or using the bathroom, as leaving your seating area would guarantee you a miserable, standing remainder of the trip. The cabin was poorly ventilated, and like everywhere in China, there was always a contingency of squatting Chinese guys chain smoking in the corner. In my tiny nook, I had two fellow travelers at different points in the evening: Mr. Ma and Wang Peng.

Mr. Ma was traveling back to his hometown in Changsha when he asked if he could squeeze into my seating area. It’s funny how quickly you’re willing to share life stories when cramped into such a small area with a shirtless migrant worker…Mr. Ma used to be a pig farmer until the 2004 Swine Flu Epidemic saw 3,000 of his pigs slaughtered by order of the local provincial government. Two years later, the government (forcibly) bought the 6 hectares of land his family had owned for over 200 years for a measly 300,000 RMB (less than 50k US). He now travels from province to province finding odd jobs to pay for his wife, 2 kids in college, and 4 parentals living with him. When asked if he thought the government had treated him fairly, he just kinda shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s life in the Middle Kingdom.”


After Mr. Ma got off at Changsha, a big 6’3″ Wang Peng came stumbling in and asked if he could share my sitting area, to which I reluctantly said yes. The already tiny compartment became almost suffocatingly small, but luckily, he turned out to be wildly entertaining company. At this point, we were ten hours into our trip, and I was slowly becoming delirious from dehydration, exhaustion, and stress. But the cheery Wang Peng was a character…Guy was obsessed with Harry Potter, and would recite lines in a terrible English accent from the movies. His love in life was Peking Opera, and had a real dainty showmanship characteristic about him. He was extremely opinionated, and had a general deep running distrust of anything government related. He was so distressed by the recent train fiasco that he got one of his engineering friends to make him a universal train key that could unlock all doors on any train (it worked…)

Anyway, I made it to Beijing in one piece eventually. It’s hard for me to say that there was any positive aspect from that train ride, as it was easily the most uncomfortable experience of my entire life. But my god it makes for a great story. And it was an opportunity to see and experience the China narrative first hand. An hour before this epic train ride, however, I got word that I had gotten a new job in Shanghai.

I’ll be working for a London based carbon credit trading firm called Climate Bridge in Shanghai for at least the next year (possibly two). I’ll primarily be occupied with researching and identifying potential clean and renewable energy projects here in China for European based firms to buy and invest carbon credits from. I’m super excited to be getting back to the pearl of the orient, as its been 2 years since I’ve spent any real significant time there. But I’m super sad to be leaving Beijing behind, and all the friends and memorable experiences that I’ve made as well. It’s been one hell of a year, and I can’t imagine having a better first post collegiate experience than the one I’ve been given. I’ll be back every now and again, so its not a forever kind of goodbye. Until next time…

Oh, and I’m not changing the name of the blog. I like the ring of it.

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3 responses

21 08 2011
Angel Hsu

Oh tell Mark Laabs I say hello! Congrats on the new job and enjoy Shanghai!

18 09 2011
Gang

You should’ve gotten off in Changsha!

13 10 2011
erinreiss

phil… miming the putting of a gun to the head of a child in the second to last picture….

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