Into the Story


Episode 17: Christine's Story: Stuck in the Station with Christine Carter

Nivel de inglés: intermediate to upper-intermediate
Acento: inglés canadiense


Esta semana en nuestro podcast para aprender inglés con historias reales y emocionantes, Christine, una verdadera aventurera, nos relata su viaje por todo el mundo durante los años 80. En el episodio de hoy aprenderás el significado de expresiones como ‘to get into trouble‘. 

Nuestra protagonista empieza su historia en la frontera de la Unión Soviética y Polonia. Christine, junto al grupo de viajeros, se encontraba en el tren a punto de salir de la estación, cuando se acordó de algo que debía hacer antes de salir del país. ¡Escuchemos sus aventuras y cómo lo hizo para cruzar la frontera sin pasaporte!

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Transcripción del Podcast

Bree: If you ask any traveller what would be their worst nightmare while traveling overseas, it’s likely that many will respond, ‘to be stuck in a country, far from home, with no passport’. In today’s episode, we hear Christine’s story of how she unexpectedly ended up in this exact situation: without her bags, without her passport and without a warm coat on the border between Poland and, what was at the time, the Soviet Union.

In today’s story, Christine talks about being a young adult, travelling around the world solo and what it was like to be a traveller passing through the Soviet Union in the 1980s. You’ll hear Christine talk about long train journeys, strict rules for currency exchange and train stations guarded by soldiers carrying big machine guns. We’re calling this episode: Stuck in the Station.

Before we begin listening, let’s talk about some of the vocabulary and expressions you’ll hear Christine say:

1. firstly a bunch of – bunch is a word that refers to a collection of particular things. For example, we can say a bunch of grapes – un racimo de uvas. But there is also a more informal use of the word bunch that means un monton de algo. Christine talks about saving a bunch of money in order to travel.
2. next ruble – spelt R-U-B-L-E is the name for Russian currency. At the time of Christine’s story, rubles were used as the main currency in the Soviet Union.
3. border – the border of something refers to the outer edge of an object or place. For example we could say that there was a border of flowers around the house. We can also talk about the border of a piece of land or the border of a country – la frontera. In fact Christine’s story took place at the border between Poland and the former Soviet Union.
4. corridor – a corridor refers to a narrow strip of land or a passageway. You’ll hear Christine talk about the corridor leading up to the immigration counter that she had to pass through to return to the train station.
5. and finally ‘to get into trouble’ – to get into trouble means to encounter a difficulty or a problem. This could be something wrong, illegal or forbidden. For example, you could say that the children got into trouble for eating all the cookies or the woman got into trouble with the police for not wearing her seatbelt. To get into trouble.

One last thing before we listen to Christine’s story. When we record the podcast, we ask storytellers to speak clearly, but also as naturally as possible. And sometimes this means that they speak a little bit quickly for our listeners. A really useful feature on Apple Spotify and Google Podcast is the option to slow down the speed of the audio. And as alway you have the transcript, vocabulary list, and listening comprehension activities on our website acingles.com/podcast. OK let’s get into the story…

Christine: My name is Christine. I had finished university and I had worked quite hard and saved up a bunch of money and I decided I wanted to travel and so I actually travelled right around the world on my own. I was pretty open to new adventures, new experiences. I felt like I had a reasonably good sense of when I was going into situations that were dangerous. I wasn’t a particularly fearful person. I left Toronto in September and I traveled through, I stopped in Vancouver and Hawaii and Fiji and New Zealand and Australia. I went to Bangkok and then flew to Hong Kong where I spent some time and then I got on a train in Hong Kong and took the train from Hong Kong to Beijing up through Mongolia and then up into Irkutsk where we stopped for several days.

And all of this at that time was in the Soviet Union and it was very controlled so the tickets were purchased through the Soviet government. The Soviet Union at that time was quiet, there was not any significant unrest so I didn’t feel unsafe at any time. There were other times on this trip I did feel unsafe but once I got into the Soviet block, no, because it’s so tightly controlled, you know, there were people watching me who were from the police. We were not allowed to get off the train in any place but where we had permission to.

At this stage we are on a train going from Moscow to Berlin and in the car with me there were two Australians and a Swiss guy. As we got to the Polish border, in… when you cross borders at that time, the immigration people come through the train and they take your passport and so you sit on the train and they get off the train with everybody’s passports and that was fine, except that we had rubles. We had Russian money and when we had changed… when we had bought the money, you’re obliged to buy cash as you go into the Soviet Union at that time and they tell you very very firmly and very strictly that you have to change it back. You’re not to take the rubles out of the country. The two Australians were like, ‘erghhh I’m not worried about it’. But the Swiss guy and I were like, ‘no no we have to change this money’! And so we went to get off the train and the lady in charge, she didn’t speak any English or any language that the Swiss guy spoke either. But she was like ahh go that way.

So we ended up, the two of us, running because we don’t know how long the train is going to stay there for. We don’t know when it’s leaving. We don’t know if we have 5 minutes or half an hour. So we’re running through the, through the train station sort of waving money at people going where do we change the money, change money and they say they head us down a certain point like this way and that way and this way and we get to the bank and we change the money successfully into American dollars and we go to go back to the train and we discover that we’ve crossed into Poland. We’re no longer in the Soviet Union.

I don’t know how we did it. There was nothing that obviously said you’re leaving the Soviet Union or you’re entering Poland we just sort of went down hallways where we were pointed to. So this Swiss guy and I and I end up in this little narrow corridor and we don’t have a passport. We don’t have wallets. We don’t have any kind of ID. It’s February in the Polish-Russian border. We don’t have coats… and like I had a few American dollars, that’s it. And at that time as when you went to a border crossing in the Eastern Block, you, you would walk into a narrow corridor. The immigration official is behind their sort of a desk height shelf and then a glass pane and there’s no one behind the glass. And the doors are locked and like, once you are in you can’t get out again. Right, you are stuck in there and banging on the glass ‘hello hello’. And the train station it’s a typical big train station with a very high ceiling so this has a false roof… they are walls without a roof right? So you can hear, you can see the roof far above you. We bang on the glass for a while saying, ‘hello hello’ and nothing much happens. And we’re… we’re quite worried that the train is going to leave without us. We have no idea how long it’s going to wait and neither of us wanted to end up in this tiny little village on the border of Poland and Russia with nothing but the money in our hands. That would have been bad.

I decided that the best thing to do would be to climb up so I could look over the wall at the people on the other side and sort of say can someone come to the immigration we’re in here. And so I hopped up and put one foot on the doorknob and one foot on your desk and pulled myself up over the top of the wall. And the Swiss guy behind me was freaking out. He was like, ‘Christine no, no, no, no, no! Don’t do this!’ And as I peered up over the top of the wall, I heard all of the soldiers, on the other side, of course are carrying machine guns. You can hear the safety come click, click, click off all of the machine guns as they turn and aim them at you. And I’m like hi! We’re… pointing at the train because I can see it going. We’re off the train we need to get on the train. And they are all looking at me with their guns pointing at me. And there’s this Russian military woman who came up and pointed at me to get back down again which I did and the Swiss guy was like ‘thank God, Christine please no!’. After a while, I got back down. The Swiss guy wiped his brow in relief and the door opened behind the glass pane and this man came through. He had a big belly and his pants were tied below his belly and he’s wearing a white tank top and it’s dirty and there are food stains down the front of it. Like a total cliche and he’s scratching himself and he looks at us and we are looking at him going you are the one who is going to save us. And he goes, ‘passport’ and we say ‘on the train’ ‘they are on the train! We don’t have passports, they are on the train’. So he goes out again and we can hear rumbled conversation in the background and eventually comes back in and sort of waves us to go through and the door clicks open and we run out and all the soldiers are there and I’m like waving at them as I run by like ‘hey it’s me again’ and the lady who is in charge of us on the train. I don’t…. I suspect she would have gotten into trouble if she had lost us because she was really upset that we had not come back to the train much faster. So she basically grabbed us by our clothing and threw us onto the train.

And the Australians were like oh we were really worried about you and yeh we said, ‘yeh we were really worried about us too’. And they said to us, well we decided what we were going to do if you didn’t get back on the train. We were going to take all of your things and throw them out the window so you could get them. It would have been much better if you had… how would you have reported us as missing when you got to Berlin if you had thrown everything out of the train.

Right now, I’m sitting in my boat with my husband and my dog and we are in a little tiny town in Poincy on the river Maine outside of Paris. We’ve been living on our boat for two years. We hope to take the boat down the Danube all the way to the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean and then and it will be in the Mediterranean and we want to visit Turkey and Greece and Croatia and Italy and then I don’t know what we’ll do. Maybe we’ll go down to Tunisia and come back or go down to Morocco on the boat or go back up to France or, or or, I mean that’s, that’s that’s at least six years right there.

So I guess my moral of the story is that we look at the EU now is that this sort of thing… I mean yes there borders that you have to go through and we’ve all gone through borders as we fly. But with the European Union, we don’t have to do this anymore. You can just get in your car and drive and go from one town to the next. So yeh, the EU is a great thing. And if someone misses the train, keep their ID so you can report them. Don’t throw it out the window into the countryside!

Bree: As Christine mentioned, she does in fact live on a sailboat with her husband and their dog Stella who you may have heard playing in the background. At the time we recorded the story, she was in France hoping to come down to Catalunya for the winter to spend time on dry land with her kids, exploring the mountain areas and avoiding the colder months at sea. We wish Christine all the best on her future adventures!

Si aún no los has hecho suscribirte ahora a Into the Story en Spotify, iTunes o tu plataforma preferida. And if you love this podcast, and we really hope you do, leave us a rating and review. Thank you for listening, until next time we hope you have a good time, or at least, a good story to tell.

Quote of the episode

‘So we ended up, the two of us, running because we don't know how long the train is going to stay there for. We don't know when it's leaving. We don't know if we have 5 minutes or half an hour.’

To get into trouble

Y la expresión que hemos escogido esta semana es… ‘to get into trouble’!

‘To get into trouble’ es un modismo muy común en inglés que se puede utilizar de maneras distintas. ‘To get into trouble’ es sinónimo de ‘meterse en líos’ y se refiere a encontrarse en situaciones complicadas o problemáticas. Como por ejemplo, podríamos decir: ‘she could get into trouble with his friends if she doesn’t apologise’, ‘ella podría meterse en un lío si no se disculpa’.

Además, ‘to get into trouble’ se utiliza para hablar de situaciones ilegales o prohibidas en las que alguien puede ser sancionado por su acciones. For example, ‘I don’t want to get into trouble with the police for not wearing my seatbelt’ ‘no quiero ser sancionado por la policía por no llevar puesto el cinturón de seguridad’. O si quiero decir en inglés ‘solía meterme en problemas con mis maestras por no haber hecho mis deberes’, podría decir, ‘I used to get into trouble with my teachers for not having done my homework’.

Hemos escuchado a Christine describiendo a la supervisora del vagón que se encargaba de los turistas en el tren. Nos cuenta cómo la señora se puso nerviosa cuando ella y su compañero no regresaron al tren a la hora prevista. Veamos cómo Christine utiliza ‘to get into trouble’ aquí:

‘I suspect she would have gotten into trouble if she had lost us because she was really upset that we had not come back to the train much faster. She basically grabbed us by our clothing and threw us onto the train.’

Learning materials

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4 comentarios

    1. Alberto, es normal don’t worry! Según tu nivel de inglés te va a costar más o menos entender el episodio. Si tu nivel es intermedio deberías poder entender bastante y si tu nivel es avanzado lo vas a entender todo. La cuestión es que hayas mejorado tu inglés por poco que sea, una palabra o una expresión nueva.

  1. Hi my name is Carmen and I’m from Vigo. I have listened to all the episodes and I can’t wait for the next one. I think it’s a fun way to learn English. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to understand but that’s why I’m still learning. Thanks for your help AC!

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