For someone who hates the sound of eating noisily it is quite a challenge to be in China. Especially when you are aboard of a full train for the coming 30 hours.
For someone who can’t stand the sound of snoring a train ride in China by night can be quite challenging. Especially since the Chinese – Chinese men – knock back a beer or four or a whole bottle of Chinese white wine (50%) before they go to sleep.
And especially since I sleep in the 3rd class, the lowest class, where three beds are stacked up above one another. And where there are no walls to give 60 sleeping persons some extra privacy.
How I react to the disturbing noise of slurping
I have always been too receptive for a sound as smacking one’s lips, since I was little. I freeze, I can’t think about anything else than the sound of the smacking lips, and I get irritated. You can call it sensitive. Or intolerant. You can call me a snob. That is up to you. Blame it on the fact that I tend to be focused on my environment.
Back home in the Netherlands I already feel reluctant when someone close by eats an apple the Dutch way. Let alone be it a person eating an apple the Chinese way somewhere in China. In China smacking one’s lips is the way to say you like your food. Not making that noise means you don’t think your food is tasty and is considered impolite.
I learn a practical lesson
An interesting dilemma came up during our train trip from Chengdu to Guangzhou. You might think the word ‘dilemma’ is exaggerated for this situation. For me it wasn’t. The hypersensitive amongst us will completely understand me.
A little bit after 8 pm I fell asleep in my middle bunk bed in that night train in China. At the outside of my bunk bed I had attached a few coat hangers with shirts on them to dry. A consequence of my wrong estimation of drying time and time to departure. A big benefit was the extra privacy thanks to the wall of wet clothes. My socks and underwear were displayed at a clothesline at the inside of my bunk bed.
After two hours of sleeping I suddenly woke up because I was soaking warm under my blanket. I visited the bathroom and performed a few acrobatic tricks to get back in my middle bunk via the narrow ladder.
Oh no. What reaches my ear? My upstairs neighbor is snoring peacefully. My shitty ear plugs are not good enough to block the sound. I can focus on nothing else than the snoring sound of this man.
Lesson 1 train life: make sure you fall asleep before your compartment mates fall asleep.
My impossible dilemma
I decide to turn head and feet, my head is at the aisle now. My blankets and pillow move with me. I have the funny thought that I might be the only one laying in this direction of the around 800 people currently aboard the train.
But then a new sound attracts my attention. At only 2 meters distance a woman is eating her peanuts. From the sound she produces I conclude she must find them delicious. Although loudly slurping doesn’t mean really anything in China. One by one the nuts disappear in her mouth, and with a lot of noise she removes the skin and swallows them accordingly. The bag is almost full.
And this is the point in my story where I can clearly describe my dilemma to you. Am I going to lay down my head – without earplugs in the meanwhile – close to the sound of snoring or close to the sound of smacking the lips? What would you choose?
Finally I fall asleep around 1 am. After some more pacing, toilet visit and turning in my bed. With my head at the default window side.
Lesson 2 is far more impactful
China is the country that offers me a great opportunity ‘to train my mind’. Do I choose to try to change my surroundings or do I choose to change my inner self? Focus on what you can influence within yourself. That is the summary of this training of the mind.
The challenge is to pay my attention on what Jandaan is telling me, despite the sound of the Noodle eating person right next to me. Not giving my surroundings power to distract me and to disturb me. But focusing on what is inside me and and being in the lead on deciding what deserves my attention. It will make me less dependent from all the unexpected – and mostly uncontrollable – things around me. Small things won’t frustrate me and unbalance me that easy anymore.
This is lesson 2, but then on the topic of how to live your life.