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.