Cellhire / People to People Techno-Teen Program

It’s been a dream of mine to go to Hogwarts for some time now. I always hoped Hedwig would fly through my window or letters would shoot out of my chimney inviting me aboard the scarlet locamotive that is known fondly as the Hogwarts Express. So, when an overnight train was scheduled on our itinerary I was looking forward to it; and while it certainly wasn’t the ride I expected filled with chocolate frogs and spells gone wrong, it was an interesting experience I am glad to have had.

The ride began with an entrance into Beijing’s crowded train station where an estimated 30,000 people wait for a train everday. We walked together in lines of two with our hands on each other’s shoulders reminiscent of a kindergarten class walking to art. When we finally arrived at platform six, unfortunatley not nine and three quarters, we boarded the train to find that the room was actually Harry’s broom closet. With two bunks within two feet of each other we became worried about claustrophobia and heat.

However, when the train took off at about eight o’clock in the evening the air conditioning turned on. Being cramped didn’t seem to be a problem as well as by nine o’clock delegates, as many as fourteen, were piled into one cabin getting acclimated and bonding. It seemed as though all the houses at Hogwarts forgot where they came from and were content to sit wherever and talk to whomever.

When curfew finally came around everyone headed their seperate ways ready to fall asleep. As the train swayed back and forth on the way past scenery, veiled by a combination of darkness and smog, the stress of the day began to set in.

For me, being a first time passenger I was excited at the prospect of sleeping on the train, however I did not want to use the conforter provided. Sheets are not common in China, so I ended up sleeping with no blankets on, making the blasting air conditioning and the random train stops in the early morning a combition that resulted in a night plaugued with tossing and turning.

When morning finally arrived, we all awoke to the sight of immense amounts of farmland and the hope that we wouldn’t have to cut our way through the jungle of shrubbery to get to our hotel. Fortunately, we rode into a fairly modern city, also known as Xi’an, and were able to get off the train without the use of a machete.

I was greeted by many stares from throngs of Asians instead of a friendly smile by Rubeus Hagrid and thestrals did not carry me to a majestic castle, but a large amount of pushing and shoving got me to a coach bus. Although the train trip was not at all what I expected it taught me something important: when traveling you have to go with the flow and do the best with what you have. For me that was a lesson I am glad to have learned and I was able to gain new friendships as a result. Maybe my ride was not as luxurious or sugar filled as Harry’s, but in the end it resulted in the same thing as his. New friends and a great story to tell.

Harry's Broom Closet

Harry’s Broom Closet

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Comments on: "Carlin McCarthy and the Lessons of Travel" (10)

  1. Well written, my dear. Just the best. So glad you were able to “go with the flow” and put such a positive spin on a slightly uncomfortable experience. (And made friends with other delegates!) XO

  2. Monika Corcoran said:

    Still loving your wonderful posts…I wake up to them each morning to see what amazing things you have done that day! Thank you so much for taking the time to write with such detail and elaboration!

  3. Lisa Kingston said:

    This is my favorite post yet! Thank you for doing such a wonderful job describing your adventures.

  4. Uncle Matt said:

    This was very well written, God bless your pen! Or keyboard, as the case may be. You’re dead right about going with the flow when travelling, tell me about it. In Europe, the trains are all perfectly reliable and comfortable, it’s the airports that are Voldemort’s lair. But your train compartment looked very nicely decorated, I have to say! Even if it was small, I’d say it was classy!

  5. Loved reading your blog. This is the first one I’ve read (I finally logged onto my computer). You have a wonderful gift…your writing is so inviting…so real. ‘Going with the flow’ is a lesson that will come in handy for many situations in life. Sometimes you just need to make the best out of situations that are not are not what you expect. (Sounds like handle this one beautifully.) Look forward to reading more. Have Fun Carlin!!!

  6. Sharon Stoker said:

    Can’t imagine what my son Matt made of the whole experience…by the way he is English,grew up with Harry Potter and is distressed that he cannot make the premier all nighter we normally pull at every opening of Harry Potter’s latest adventures!! I’m sure he was having all the same thoughts as yourself and made several friends on the train (like yourself :) If you happen to speak to my Matthew please give him a hug and tell him I miss him loads and am glad he is having such an amazing time!! p.s he’s the one who danced the cha-cha with the Chinese girl :)

  7. Loved reading your blog. This is the first one I’ve read (I finally logged onto my computer). You have a wonderful gift…your writing is so inviting…so real. ‘Going with the flow’ is a lesson that will come in handy for many situations in life. Sometimes you just need to make the best out of situations that are not are not what you expect. (Sounds like handle this one beautifully.) Look forward to reading more. Have Fun Carlin!!!

  8. granddad said:

    Dear Carlin,
    This is from Nanny. I am so technologically impaired that it has taken a long time to get to the blog. Granddad tries to teach me but he can be China crabby at times. I have not been interested in Chinese culture or art or music. Now three of my granddaughters will have been to China. Hannah will go for an Opera performance and Emma will go for a language immersion course. Even then I was not interested. But reading your blog has changed that. I must now learn more – especially the geography and the government. Thank you for that. Love Nanny

  9. I read your email and wondered how I’d inspired your post, and I could not have been happier with it. I’m glad we’re both in full blown Harry potter mindset right now, I just henna tattooed a lightning bolt on my arm. It sounds like your overnight train ride was not a disappointment, other than the whole not sleeping thing, which is really nbd because who need sleep. anyway have an enchanting continuation of your trip!

  10. Also I’m proud of your newfound flexibility :)

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