10th July 2015

This morning I left Fuzhou with very mixed emotions. Our plan was to fly to Chongqing this evening however our flight was cancelled. The reason was typhoon Chan-hom. Estimates vary as to whether Fuzhou is in its direct path some say yes and that it may have reached super typhoon  status with winds up to 160mph (257kph). Others suggest Chan-hom will pass north of the city. If it is the latter then there will still be high winds but there could be anything up to 2in (50mm) of rain per hour. The rain is an especial worry for the university area as it is sited alongside a major tributary of the Ming river. So perhaps you are thinking that my reference to panics in the title is about this? Not a bit of it read on!

First a tiny bit more about the typhoon. The Chinese authorities have issued warnings and advice. All flights out of Fuzhou have been cancelled from this afternoon onwards. In other parts of Fujian province there are reports that up to 10,000 people have been evacuated.

After trying unsuccessfully for an earlier flight we decided to take the bullet train instead. This meant though we had an early start as the train left at 8:30. The journey is 13 hours, the compensation is that we would be passing inland though eastern China so would get to see over 1,000 miles of countryside. This also meant we had to cancel our goodbye breakfast with a whole group of students I was wanting to say goodbye to and thank for their good companionship, humour and help, sad but inevitable.

Let me say at this point that we are incredibly fortunate to have the help of Vanessa, a student at FJUT whose English is superb. For reasons quite beyond me Vanessa has helped us plan the trip and appointed herself our unofficial guardian. So last night the able Vanessa made the train bookings, ordered the taxi for 7 this morning. Her phone wasn’t working so I lent her mine and we went our separate ways to prepare and pack.

Enter the panic! Come 7 o’clock there’s Mark, an incomprehensible taxi driver and me at the hotel, no Vanessa. No answer on the phone, no response on WeChat. Time slips by and we start to get anxious. Suddenly the taxi driver takes a call and beckons to us to pack our things in the boot and get in. What had we to lose? So two portly non-Chinese speaking men of uncertain years get meekly into the taxi and we drive off. We go down the road and stop then he takes a call and does a u-turn and back we go and miracle upon miracle there’s Vanessa. It turns out that she’d had a difficult night helping a friend out and had had hardly any sleep. We all congratulated ourselves on getting back on track and set off for the station with every certainty that all would now be plain sailing …

You know that phrase authors use about blood draining out of a person’s face? I’ve always considered it poetic licence. Well as we walked into the foyer of the station the blood really did drain out of Mark’s face as he turned to me and said “**** I’ve forgotten my passport:”.

Showstopper? Calamity? Forced back to Fuzhou to spend the weekend with, Chan-hom? Not a bit of it. The redoubtable Vanessa gets Mark to dig around on his iPad for a scan he had made of his passport. We then push to the front of the queue (very un-English but so were the people queuing who when realising our pressing need made space for us without demur). Vanessa then proceeded to explain the problem. The ticket clerk’s answer was in Globish “No passport no ticket. More than my job’s worth!” you’ve heard it before you don’t need a translator to know what is being said. Undeterred Vanessa pressed her point over and over again. It was like a verbal table tennis match (no wonder the Chinese are so good at the game!), what a performance. 5 minutes later we had three tickets and were rushing through the security checks  we boarded with 6 minutes to spare. Suddenly over 1,000 miles of China was beckoning and I couldn’t wait.

2 thoughts on “Of Fond Farewells And Panics”

  1. I hope you got a round trip ticket, Mark. Otherwise you might be in a pickle to get home. ha ha

    Are you returning to Fuzhou for the fall semester, or heading back to UK after summer break?

  2. Hi Mark, hair-raising adventures but the train ride sounds more interesting than a flight. Are you heading back to Britain or relocating in China,

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