We’re back on board the train after our four-hour break in Zabaykalsk during which work crews changed the wheels on the train so that they’ll work on China’s narrower gauge railroad.
As we boarded, Rustam said that customs and immigration control would now take another three hours to check everyone on the train.
First a tough-looking hombre with a drug-sniffing dog came through the train. While the uniformed agent stood outside our door, his dog ran into our car, sniffed around quickly, found nothing and automatically ran to the next compartment to repeat the process. The agent said not a word, but gave us a look that said, This is a great job. The dog does all the work and I get to stand here scaring the hell out of weak kneed Americanski tourists. How the hell did these clowns win the Cold War?
Jamie may disagree, but that’s what I got out of the look he gave us.
Then a very attractive, but severe young woman in a sleek, formfitting uniform came to our door and demanded our passports. Think Lilith on the old Frasier TV show. She was all business. She asked for Jamie’s passport first, ordered her to stand up, looked over the documents very carefully, then turned to the photo page. She stared at Jamie, then stared just as carefully at the passport photo and repeated the process three or four more times. I’m pretty sure she was thinking, What happened? This woman has cute hair in her passport photo, but now she looks like she washed it with some crazy waterless shampoo.
Jamie may disagree, but that’s what I got out of the look she gave her.
She finally slipped Jamie’s passport into her briefcase and turned to me. Same process, but I swear she took twice as long looking back and forth between me and my passport. Then she gave me a look that said, If it weren’t for this chick with the strange dirty hair, I could get myself some of this hunky Americanski dude.
Jamie may disagree, but that’s what I got out of the look she gave me.
Then she put my passport in her briefcase and left. Brokenhearted, I’m sure.
A quarter hour or so later a much older, even more severe uniformed man stood in our doorway and in a very heavy Russian accent started demanding answers.
“How much Chinese and Russian money do you have?”
Hell, man, I thought he wanted an exact count, so I pulled out my wallet and started counting out my 2400 rubles. Please keep in mind that 2400 rubles is no laughing matter. It’s almost eighty American dollars and the thought entered my mind that I might have been in violation of some arcane Russian currency law by carrying around a wad of cash that size.
He gave me a look that said, You freakin’ moron. I’m looking for Russian drug lords carrying billions of ill-gotten euros and you’re showing me your pathetic eighty dollars? Sit down, you Americanski idiot.
Jamie may disagree, but that’s what I got out of the look he gave me.
Another quarter hour or so passed and another very large, very tough-looking uniformed man came to our compartment and ordered us out so that he could go over it with a fine tooth comb.
He gave Jamie a look that said, Honey, I may be going over this compartment with a fine tooth comb, but from the looks of your hair it could really use a fine tooth comb. Or a comb of any kind. Do yourself a real favor and wash that mop with real shampoo as soon as you get to Beijing.
Jamie may disagree, but that’s what I got out of the look he gave her.
Another hour or so passed and the sexy little passport chick who was so hot for me came back. She looked at Jamie, opened her passport and said in the cutest little Russian accent, “Jamie Leen deYonk?”
Jamie said, “Yes” and her passport was immediately handed back to her.
Then she looked at me, and with an undeniable sexual tension thick in the air, she stumbled as she tried to say my name, “Jamesie Leen … Jamesie Lee deYonk?”
I said, “Yes” and my passport was handed back to me along with a tiny slip of paper on which she had written, “Lose the chick with the dirty hair and meet me in the cabooski.”
OK, there was no note, but I consider that a mere technicality. Jamie may disagree, but I think that’s what a note would have said if the agent hadn’t feared running afoul of her superiors at the KGB.
Another hour has passed and we’re still sitting here. No sign of any progress.
UPDATE: We’re finally pulling out of the Zabaykalsk train station seven hours and forty-five minutes after we arrived.
Dos vadanya, my sweet little passport chick, until we meet again.