Well, today was supposed to be the big day, the day we could purchase our train tickets back to Jinan. I got some students to write a note explaining what I needed to a ticket agent. I was told the booking agency opened at 9am and I didn’t know if there’d be a line because of the holiday so I went at 8:30.
One man was ahead of me. He soon got his tickets. My turn. The woman looked at my note like it was a used tissue, but she did check her computer. She then said something I didn’t understand. The college kids behind me giggled and shrugged their shoulders. They weren’t going to be able to help. I called the foreign affairs office and gave the phone to the agent. I then learned that the tickets from that city couldn’t be sold till 3 or 4 pm today and the agent wasn’t sure when. Huh?
Is this a system? A system for a country that’s got 1.3 billion and sophisticated high speed trains that Americans only dream of? I guess it is.
I really had some doubts about whether I was getting the full story. Yet there was absolutely nothing I could do about that. I told the assistant, who had at the start of all this told everyone she would buy our tickets if we were going away, that it seemed we’d have to wait till she could do this at 4pm.
Well, long story short 4pm arrives and there’s no word. At 5pm we find out all the sleeper cars are sold out. Neither of us wants to do two 11 hour overnight trips in a hard seat. So we’re flying. I booked tickets with elong.com and a blogger saw my earlier post and said we should leave from nearby Zhengzhou, not Luoyang (which would mean traveling via Beijing and spending twice as much money).
I’m not thrilled, to say the least. I feel this process was bungled and we tried so hard when things were looking bad to do it ourselves, but it’s just not possible. Even if I spoke Chinese, I’d have run into trouble as the system’s so complicated and mysterious.
I am happy to have a way back and will just have to live with the added expense. We’ll also have to find another hotel room. I’ll figure that out shortly.