China-focused Satire, Social Commentary, Comics and More

Breakfast of Survivors


No, the four different bread products aligned so neatly on the plate is no mistake. That – along with a cup of lukewarm tea and some soft cheese – is what you eat for breakfast after a night on a rickety train sailing south into Upper Egypt. That is all a stomach can handle.

Our train car was in the charge of a man who had apparently had his cheeks shined along with his shoes in the last station. We were placed in a compartment at the end of the car (first class, the only available for foreigners as a matter of security…), apart from the troupe of bulky, red-faced Russians in scandalously short shorts. Our waiter told us we could listen to the radio, but after pressing and banging on the console, determined it was broken.

Egypt is mostly a north-south country, and its overused trains run parallel to the Nile on an overused set of tracks. The trains arrive late and leave even later, but it has nothing to do with effort; when they are going, the locomotives go full throttle. But, a passing train, livestock on the track, confusion – and the brakes are engaged. A voyage on an Egyptian train is a continual battle against opposing forces, stopping and going, struggling to catch up and narrowly escaping collision.

To sleep one must either be of great faith or dead drunk. We were neither. Each time the train lurched into a sudden deceleration, we were certain it was a head on collision, a derailment, perhaps the end of the rails altogether. Only a week later, we learned our lack of faith was ground firmly in reality, as we read of the horrific wreck of a southbound train. They said it was a cow.

One Response to “Breakfast of Survivors”

  1. JadeDragon says:

    This just makes me want to get out on the road again. Those prepackaged breads are found in China too.

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