Note: For over 2 weeks, I have not been able to access my site for blogging. All my efforts were blocked by some unseen force. But today, for some reason, my ability to enter my account has returned. The following is a saved article, updated to meet today’s readers.
Two weeks ago, on Tuesday, announcements were finally made for my first year students’ 10-day military training. I would have the week off, meaning that my trip to Nanning (capital city of this province, Guangxi) to get my foreigner’s annual physical could finally be planned.
It was also a time for a bit of anxiety on my part.
Pet Travel in China
When I lived in Sichuan, travels with the dog to Chengdu, 3 1/2 hours away from my former placement, were never a problem. I would load Little Flower (LF) into her carrier, scramble on the bus, place her under my seat and off we’d go. For our rest stops, LF would parade down the bus aisle, exit into the parking lot, head over to grassy spots to do her business and return to her carrier without much coaxing by me. The passengers and bus driver smiled and complimented me on such a well-behaved dog.
But we are now in the south of China, where pet ownership is not something often smiled upon. Dogs carry diseases. They should ride under the bus with the luggage, no matter how roasting hot it is or fume-filled the compartment. That’s just the way it is.
In the winter here, when the temps are cool, I have actually put LF under the bus in her airline crate for our trips to Nanning. She managed just fine without any problems. But our weather is getting hotter now, meaning I don’t dare stick her on busrides that would have her imprisoned for 3 hours. I would have no idea how she was getting along or if she was in danger of death due to over-heating.
That’s where my babysitters on campus always came in handy. Abby (Teacher Yi) and Kate (Teacher Yan) were my lifesavers. They had been trained to take care of LF while I was gone and got along splendidly with her. Unfortunately this past year, I lost both Abby and Kate. Kate is currently studying for her MA in English at Nanning Normal University. Abby was moved to the new campus in Chongzuo city, far from Longzhou.
Training a new person to take care of my finicky Chihuahua can be a problem, especially when my other colleagues don’t really care for dogs. Of course, there are the students but putting one of them in charge of LF I would never do. If something happened, the poor student would feel so racked with guilt and shame that they would have difficulty recovering. The school wouldn’t take too kindly to the foreign teacher dumping her pet into the care of one of their youngsters, either. Nor would I put anyone in such a position. That’s just inconsiderate and not at all a wise move on my part.
So when it comes to travel, I’ve tended to limit trips to a single day or stay put this past year.
But with the Nanning physical coming up, it was imperative that I get to Nanning. And that meant bringing the dog along with me.
I have ridden a few times with LF on the bus to Nanning without too much difficulty. The first 2 times, the different drivers didn’t seem to mind she was accompanying me on board, right next to the other passengers. Another time, the driver frowned and we had a bit of a back-and-forth before he finally pulled out of the Longzhou station.
Yet a third run to the capital city, I ran into a panic attack at our expressway checkpoint.
We are so near the Vietnam border that we always have to have our IDs checked by soldiers before entering the expressway. The uniformed men who come on board to check our IDs at times look through our things as well. They question items that look like drugs and pay particular attention to packages that might contain endangered species parts. We have those who smuggle in such things (tiger penises, panda paws, exotic bird bills) as it’s thought by some locals to bring about curing abilities for cancer, sterility or whatever ails you. These items can go for big bucks in the city, where people slip into specialty stores to secretly buy such things.
The last time I had LF with me, the soldiers made their way to the back of the bus and noticed something moving in her travel carrier, covered by a towel to keep my dog quiet during the trip. They suspiciously asked me what it was. I immediately responded it was a dog but they wanted to see her. I removed the towel but the soldier didn’t look too satisfied that LF should continue on this journey with me.
I quickly pulled out her vaccination records, along with some old airline flight permission papers, which caused even more scrutiny by the young man. He called over his supervisor, who slowly flipped through all the dog documents while I held my breath.
Would they confiscate my pet? Would they kick me off the bus? Would they insist she ride underneath, with the luggage, in this sweltering hot 90-degree weather?
After what seemed an eternity of them looking over the documents, and the entire busload of passengers staring curiously back at me, I was handed my papers and they left.
Whew! That was scary.
After that little incident, I decided best to leave the dog behind as often as possible. After all, the next officer to check my dog’s ID might not be so kind.
A No-fail Plan
This new trip to Nanning with the dog called for some careful planning. I decided to take the earliest bus out of town, the 6:40 a.m., as it would be safe for several reasons.
First, it shouldn’t be too crowded. Who would be going to Nanning on a weekday so early? Not many, I guessed. That would allow me to sit far in the back and spread out, keeping the dog away from others.
Secondly, perhaps the security guards at the expressway wouldn’t be quite so diligent in their duties so early in the morning. This would be the first bus out of Longzhou heading to the expressway. The dawn shifts might not be quite as selective in checking out things so carefully as those on duty later in the day.
And lastly, there probably wouldn’t be any little kids on the bus at that time in the morning.
Little children are fine in China. and I love them to pieces, but not my dog. LF has a terrible habit of barking threats and lunging at little kids. Even the sound of their happy, high-pitched voices causes her to go into an obnoxiously loud defense mode. It’s always been a great embarrassment to me to have such a lovely little dog that behaves in all ways except for this one. Why she dislikes children so much is beyond me. If she wants to bark at outside school kids in the confines of my home, that’s one thing but on the bus? Where the passengers would all hear her? And she most likely wouldn’t shut up?
That was the last thing I needed. Thus the 6:40 a.m. departure, where I was at least 99% sure we’d be safe.
Well, Almost Safe
Well, it was a good plan and one I had great faith in . . . until it was carried out. Yes, we ran into some trouble.
LF and I left the school at 6:10 a.m. by a 3-wheeled taxi, which I had let us off at the park across from the bus station. There LF was able to run about and do all her business before I loaded her into the carrier, covered her up and hauled her to our departure gate.
The bus was extremely crowded when I got on board, much to my dismay. I hadn’t expected that. I had requested a back seat so I was safely tucked away in No. 32, next to a woman already dozing off in her seat. Across the aisle from me were 2 vacant seats, which remained so as the driver backed us out and began moving onward to our destination.
What luck! I quickly moved over to take up those 2 empty seats. This was going to be a great trip with the dog quietly in her little nook. No one sitting next to us and no worries of LF endangering our trip with her snotty behavior.
I settled contentedly into my seat. The bus moved out of town, going two blocks. Then it stopped.
I peered out the window to see what was going on. What do I see but Grandma and her daughter with 2 toddlers in tow, getting on the bus. And where would they sit in a crowded bus except for the 2 seats that they had tickets for, the very ones I now occupied.
Oh, great. That’s all I needed were two little boisterous boys, making noises and setting off the dog.
I quickly moved back to my assigned seat, stuffed the dog’s carrier beneath and prayed for these toddlers to be quiet. After all, they were right next to us. There was no way LF wouldn’t hear them. She’d be barking the entire trip, all the way to the checkpoint and beyond. Everyone would be cross, especially the driver and the attendant.
An Easter Prayer
My Easter prayer was for her to be silent . . . as silent as the Easter Bunny stealthily hiding candy for the children. I’d have prayed for the kids to be silent but the little squirts were already wiggling uncomfortably on the laps of their two charges. There was no way those kids could keep quiet, and I was right.
Within 5 minutes, they were whining, screeching, crying, thumping one another and talking up a storm. Each sound that came out of their mouths, I waited for LF to explode in non-stop barking.
Incredibly enough, not a sound. . . at least yet, anyway.
We still had the checkpoint to go through.
20 minutes down the road, it was time for the men to clamor onboard and check our IDs. This wasn’t going to be fast as so many of us were on the bus. And several didn’t have their cards with them so they were sent off to the official sign-in desk near the toll booth.
The men made their way to the back of the bus. I handed over my passport. Then they moved on to the mother and her family. Next came an inspection of some guy’s handbag which contained a zip-locked package of tea. After some discussion, the soldier put it back in the bag and seemed satisfied all was well.
Every delay they made getting off the bus, I figured would be our downfall.
It wasn’t until we were finally cleared to continue on the journey that I felt all was well. And I was right.
Not a peep from LF. Even the kids finally settled down, dozing off along with Mom and Grandma.
The “Woof!” Heard Round the World . . . Or Rather the Station
When we finally pulled into Nanning’s Lang Dong Long Distance Bus Station to disembark, I knew we’d made it.
I hustled off the bus, the covered carrier slung over my shoulder, grabbed my luggage and off we went through the waiting room.
And that’s when all the dog’s pent-up bus energy let loose.
“Bark, bark, bark! Yip, yip, yip! Scratch, scratch, scratch!”
The carrier under my towel was shaking fiercely.
Startled people walking near us jumped back. Waiting passengers stared. Outside taxi drivers were hesitant to call us over for business.
Of course, once the towel came off the carrier and the dog was released from her confines, she was fine. During our taxi ride to the hotel, she sat quite contentedly on my lap. She stuck her head out the open window to enjoy all the big city smells. She pulled out her travel toys to shake and squeak in the back seat. She eagerly hopped out of the taxi directly in front of the hotel and trotted to the attendant, waiting to check us in.
In other words, she became the perfect well-behaved canine.
The Week in Nanning Began
Thus the week in Nanning began. A little on the nervous side for me but after we were settled into the room, everything came up roses.
Hope your Easter Sunday was a blessed one, celebrating Christ’s resurrection and the glories of new life and Spring.
Here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace)