Today is Tanja’s birthday, so we will have a birthday party on the train, that’s for sure. This train only has second class compartments, and Simón stays with three very nice older Dutch people a little bit down the hall. The guy and two women have been traveling several days through Mongolia, and stayed for a couple of them in the Gobi desert, even. We envy them a little bit.
We go for some beers to the restaurant car, and Santi secretly disappears to decorate our compartment and plan the surprise birthday party. After a longer stop, we lead Tanja back to the cabin – even though she unfortunately spots the decoration from outside already, the surprise is effective. We have some birthday cake, dance (as far as that is possible in our small cabin) to the music we brought, some Colombian shots that Santi brought. My tummy starts aching, I nevertheless eat a second piece of cake, ’cause what do you do on a train? Right, eat! Zaira starts to feel dizzy. While the others continue partying, Zaira has to visit the bathroom and eat the cake backwards, and I go to rest on the upper bed. But it doesn’t help, and I have to follow Zaira’s example. We both feel better afterwards, I even eat more. But it was false relief – now the real party starts. After our toilet-visits become as frequent as every 20 minutes, it soon seems obvious that something is going on. 4 hours later, I get kicked out of the bathroom because we are at the border and during the passport control the toilets need to be empty and locked. Great.
The next two hours, our stomach-emptying game continues in our cabin, to the others’ distress. But what can we do? No single drop of water stays inside of us, we don’t even try to eat anything anymore. Another two hours later, Zaira has blue lips, and I am shaking and freezing and sweating at the same time. Santi mixes us some water with salt, to fix our electrolyte imbalance again. Now the Chinese passport control comes – they bring a guy who “checks faces” for any obvious diseases with them. When he finds us, he takes us off the train and to the train station nurse. We are glad about that, the bogies of the train are being changed now which means the hot train will be standing without any air conditioning and with locked bathrooms in some hall for the next three hours, no chance of escape.
When the nurse takes our temperature and mine is 39 degrees, she wants to send us to the hospital. This would mean missing the train, where all our belongings are on, and the others, whom we could not contact. We refuse to agree to this plan. I am so thirsty. Now there are three people talking around us, we have no idea about what, some Chinese lady in a dress, no working clothes, came by and keeps on asking us stuff in Chinese that we obviously cannot answer. The guy who checks faces is the only one who speaks English. However, it doesn’t seem to be important, she asks and then stops paying attention to us, a couple of times. Now our savior is on the phone. Then he disappears. They give us saline solution to drink. Suddenly the guy comes back, carrying a bag of all sorts of medication with him. He got this from his friend at the hospital – now we don’t need to go there. Then he goes with us to the store across the street and buys us a lot of water (we have used up the entire stock we had on the train), we have no RMB ourselves. He goes home to change clothes, then he comes back because he also needs to take this train, to go to his hometown. He brings food and tries to get some into us. All the time, we are sitting in the waiting hall and waiting for the train to come back. We didn’t throw up in some time, maybe that means it is going to be better now.
Finally, the train comes back. In the meantime, also Simón got caught by the mysterious disease, but he luckily doesn’t have it as bad as we did. We are very thankful for the help of the Chinese guy, but all we can give him is 20 Euros. He wants to keep them as a souvenir and not change them into RMB.