Riding The Time Train

Yana and Vlad know a saying: “When you buy a train ticket, what you are actually buying is time.”


At first I assume this is a classic Russian aphorism,  but then they explain that the quote is from a Japanese cartoon show. I laugh because this transfer of cultures through a cartoon parallels much of what I experience here: I am sitting in China, being told a Japanese cartoon reference, by my two Russian friends—my international family.  

Yana turns to me and says, “And that is what we get here; we get time.”


We all bought a ticket on this month-long “train ride” in China. We packed our bags for a journey into unknown terrain and an intangible breadth of time. Aboard this whirlwind machine called Pacific Rim Park, we have pushed ourselves beyond our comforts and limits. Now we have two days left until our final destination. We  will disembark as changed individuals.


On this journey we hit stretches when we thought we were doomed passengers on a runaway train. When walls collapsed and bodies ached, we questioned if our park was off its track (or if we were!). Some days we wanted to quit. For some of us, today might have been that day.


Tomorrow will mark only  two days left until completion. We will depart this train of time, step back into our lives and homes, and once again cook for ourselves, go to our jobs, and pay rent. Our time will be divided, less linear, and I think we will deeply appreciate (even more!)  the gift we have been given here in Yantai of a month-long spell of true focus.


I wonder how much our memories will morph and our perspectives evolve? Will distance and time reveal all that we have learned? Or will this intense, month-long experience gradually slip into our individual pasts, dimming, eventually to be forgotten?


I, for one, know we will always remember what  we had here. Our blood and sweat swirled and mixed into these tile floors. How can we not walk with a new  sense of clarity, belonging, and the purpose we gained from our ride on the Pacific Rim Park/Yantai Gold Line?


Soon a final ceremony will commence and a ribbon will be cut. Our floating pearl will belong forever to the city of Yantai, and we will exchange this journey’s ticket for the next.