[apologies for lack of photos. I took very few during this stretch of the journey.]
The Beatles’ Yesterday wafts down the carriage from one of the sections that has the radio turned up loud – Yesterday? I can’t recall any yesterday. ‘Time’ has lost all meaning.
When was the last time you got on a train clean-shaven, and found yourself stepping off it at your destination with a good bit of bristle? Probably never if you’re a girl, and likely to be never even if you’re a boy.
That’s the way it’s going. I’m now 45 hours into my trip from Krasnoyarsk to Moscow, breaking the previous record for a single ride – that was 44 hours across the East China Sea to Shanghai.
Whilst the scenery outside the window has not changed all that much – the birch trees continue to line the embankment (albeit now joined by beeches and other deciduous varieties) The characters around me have nearly all changed; only Marilyn (with still-perfect makeup) and her precocious daughter share my roots way back East. Gone is the businessman in his brown suit and bright orange tie: in his place a granny who woke the whole carriage at 2am with her complaints about being on the top bunk. The other mother and daughter pair now take the form of a sleeping alcoholic, his huge belly on show to all, his loud snore ensuring we don’t fail to notice he’s there.
Unlike most of train journeys I have taken up until now, this one is proving to not be about the places I pass through or even the people I ride with – it is unmistakably about me. With virtually nothing by way of distraction, my mind has been wandering. At first I felt I needed something else to soak up the hours, so I read (and finished) my book, In Siberia. It painted a very depressing picture of the region, and one that I felt wasn’t all that fair. The grim picture the author painted of the view from the chapel on the hill above Krasnoyarsk was not the same view I saw. I saw a city much like any other city, with a centre, suburbs, and industry. It was a city that was alive with activity, not some casualty of an economic slump gasping for breath.
Then the book was finished, so I decided to listen again to a couple of audiobooks that have helped me a great deal in this year. One focuses upon our ability to take control of our lives should we so choose to do so, and listening to it blew away those mental blocks that had, until that point, prevented me from believing in my true potential. The second audiobook focuses more on the spirit, and helped me awaken to the idea that we are but energy, and that all around us is energy. One chapter I listened to yesterday was focusing on problems. A problem, before it hits our eyes or ears, before our brains process it, is merely energy. It is not innately good or bad – it is just energy. It is only when we grasp a hold of that energy and assign meaning to it that it becomes a problem – so why not choose to assign a more positive meaning to it, whatever it may be? I have tried to embrace this kind of thinking in the past few months, and I must say, it has made a huge positive impact on my life.
When my iPod died, so I was left to thinking. My mind turned to my final destination – the UK – how did I feel about returning there?
Just over three weeks ago I left Japan not in the least bit prepared for being back in the UK. I didn’t want to return. I had a life in Japan with which I was happy. My finance was there, as were some precious friends.
Arriving in China, all thoughts of loss were wiped from my mind as I became embroiled in the ‘struggle’ for daily survival. OK, so this was no life-and-death struggle, but familiarity and the ability to easily communicate my ideas, wants and desires was taken from me. As I journeyed north into Mongolia, so my surroundings became even more foreign. There were times when I felt I had lost control over my destiny – I was at the mercy of the kindness and guidance of others. Leaving Ulaanbaatar I meet Adrian, and then the good folks at the Baikaler and Nikita. The tide has turned, and I am being eased back into European life.
And finally, I take this train. The landscape, whilst not exactly typical of that I might find in the UK, could be thought of as vaguely familiar. European chocolate bars appear in the shops on station platforms, Western pop music is heard over the intercom including a number of absolute classics that I love.
One frustration has been the inability to communicate with shop keepers, and thus the inability to buy the food I want. As I lye there in my bunk I begin to dream of my mum’s cooking – and wow! I can taste it in 5 days! I then start to think of how good it will feel to be able to talk with others, to have a shower when I want, to put my photos of Japan up on my wall in my Sheffield apartment, to plug my Mac into the mains and not worry about only having 15 mins of battery power left.
I start to really look forward to being back in the UK. This is not expected. Every other time I have left Japan I have felt a sense of mourning, but this time I have not made an artificially short journey of 15 hours, no, this time I have done it the way it was meant to be, and it feels just right. Yes, I do miss my fiance and friends in Japan, but this time things differ there too as I have far firmer foundations, and the knowledge that I am going back in under a year on a semi-permenant basis.
I decide that it is important that I be everything I can be during this coming year in the UK. I must live each day as the precious day that it is, and press forward to achieve the many goals I have set myself whilst sitting here in this bunk, on train 55 to Moscow.
And with that, the battery died