A suitcase filled with string beans

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song

We take the train from Changchun in Northeast China to Shenzhen in Southeast China. Taking more than 36 hours, it’s the longest train ride for me so far. At one of the stops a woman gets on the train. She puts her luggage beneath one of the beds of the 6-bed compartment Y is sharing with 4 other people tonight. She stands in front of the bed, thinking. She then takes the suitcase out again. She opens it. Puts a handful of string beans on one of the beds that is not occupied yet. Then she takes another handful of string beans out of the suitcase and puts it onto the bed. And another one. In the end, the whole bed is filled with string beans. But she isn’t done yet. Her suitcase is still filled with other things. She takes a bag of tomatoes out of it, also putting it carefully onto the bed. And a bag of cucumbers. And salads. And a whole water melon. And what seems like 5 kilograms of small sugar melons. And a few dozen boiled eggs. And that’s it. She’s done. She spends the whole next day giving us fruits and vegetables whenever she feels that we might be hungry. If we decline to eat what she offers, she complains that she’ll have to carry it all on her own once she’s gotten off the train. So we help her eat. In the end, there’s still a lot left. On the evening of the second day, she puts all the remaining vegetables and fruits into the suitcase again. At 5 o’clock the next morning she gets off the train. She’ll bring the remaining fruits and veggies to her daughter’s place, who is living in the south and whom she is visiting.

Have you ever seen someone take more veggies and fruits with them than they could possibly eat?

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7 thoughts on “A suitcase filled with string beans

  1. haha, great post! but actually not only chinese people do that…. you should see what i usually pack for going on a longer journey…. just on our last trip my husband and me took, amongst other things, two whole watermelons with us from austria to slovenia, croatia, italy and then, as we did not eat them during our trip back to austria. well, at least the two melons got to see some more places before they got eaten. ๐Ÿ˜€
    but i have to say i really liked that in chinese trains when you get fed by complete strangers.


  2. In 1986 we took the train from Beijing to Changchun. It was October, I think, and the city was filled with Chinese cabbage. It was dumped on the street corners, piled up beside apartment buildings, hanging off balconies. The harvest was in, ready to be eaten or pickled.

    I don’t know why the woman brought so much produce on your train ride, but it’s a very cute story.


    • That sounds like a lot of Chinese cabbage!

      I think she did that because she wanted to bring her daughter some fresh Northeast Chinese vegetables. I’ve heard people from Northeast China say that vegetables taste different in the south and aren’t as nutritious as those in Northeast China, because of Northeast China’s fertile black soil.


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