Friday, 20 July 2007

I thought spending six nights ans seven days on a train would be a painful experience but in fact it was fantastic. The train crosses Northern China, Siberia and Russia at such a leasurely speed that the landscape unfolds with an unassuming drama just beyond the glass. I spent much of my time trying to draw the vanishing horizon lines on the train window with a marker pen. It is only now that I am back that I am able to see video clips of some of that.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Punjabi meal

Today 45 Punjabi site workers [all involved with pouring concrete] came to have a Punjabi meal for lunch. The cooking of the food and even serving the meal would have been impossible without Sachdev's help. His aunt cooked the meal on Sunday at her home in Hayes and on Monday morning we drove down to Bristol, where in great haste we heated up the food before serving it in the information centre. The whole thing was a fantastic success and a great way to start the recipe project.

Monday, 9 July 2007

China stone diary

I never knew getting onto a ferry could be such hard work, but pushing 150kgs of granite up the walking ramp onto the ship nearly killed me. The trolley is also on its last legs. The steel is bent and almost in two pieces just above the wheels. almost back

Saturday, 7 July 2007

China stone diary

Moscow in the rain. Today I have been walking the city with the stone. Tonight I get another train - two days and nights to Cologne.

Friday, 6 July 2007

China stone diary

The trains progress through Siberia is slow, but the journey is never boring. I think because you know you are on the train for a week, you just settle into the rhythm. The resturant car now only serves Russian food and I am getting very used to Borscht and over the days I have made a few friends of other passengers. Every few hours the train reaches a station where it might stop for half an hour. It is a chance to go for a walk or buy some food. After the experience of the customs these last few days have been a joy. My next worry is Moscow. I arrive at a different station from where I will leave and I have a couple of days wait. The stone, trolley and I will be doing some walking!

Monday, 2 July 2007

China stone diary

At 4am this morning we reached the Chinese border, a town called Manzhouli. Gradually we made our way through a kind of no-mans-land before reaching the Russian side. After 36 hours on the train I had begun to relax and I had no idea what a horrendous day was ahead. It began with the Russian border guards boarding the train to check our papers. Although I had letters from Stonepave, Dawa Stone and Bristol Alliance explaining my work and giving a value for the stone, it was not enough to satisfy the customs officials. They insisted I take the stone off the train and to their offices. Much easier said then done! The stone weighs 150kgs and there was no station platform. That meant manhandling the stone down the train corridor before lifting it down about 7 ft from the train to the ground. Completely impossible on my own! Eventually I managed to find two Russian students on the train who helped me. The began 5 hours of following custom officials from one office to another. Once again I struch lucky when I met a young Russian border guard, Sergi, who spoke very good English and tried to help steer me through the complexities of Russian officialdom. He was a great help, but not enough to prevent me being ripped off! With Sergi's help I filled out the paperwork. I was then told that customs understood the stone had no value, but it would take one day to process. If I wanted to wait they would do it, but it would mean missing my train. I could wait for a week for another train, or I could pay! A 'customs official' then escorted me to a bank in town where I could use my card for cash. I handed him the equivalent of £100 and without any more forms, I found myself back on the train! What a long day - the train had hardly left the station and I was ready to sleep.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

China stone diary

The Beijing - Moscow train I took goes around Mongolia before meeting the Vladivostock - Moscow line. It then goes right across Siberia. My First morning on the train was a chance to look around. The train is old an never travels at more then about 60kms. I am in a 2 person compartment on my own as I have had to pay for a birth for the stone. At the end of the carriage there is a very basic toilet with cold water to wash and further down the train a resturant which until we cross the border, serves Chinese food only. Most people on thr train seem to be Chinese, although there are a few Russians and one or two back - packers.