Saturday, August 1, 2009

Numerous kindnesses of strangers to strangers

[Cynthia's observations]
On Mt. Lu, we as westerners are very rare. In fact we hadn't seen any others as we took a morning walk up to the village. In the park near a viewpoint into a valley, we saw many elderly Chinese people playing games -- a unusual version of checkers, majong, and a gambling game with Chinese characters on thin strips of paper. Women were engaged in dancing/qigong and another man was playing a traditional two-stringed instrument.

We glanced up and spotted a young western man across the street. We nodded in recognition and went about finding a place for a breakfast bite. A moment later, the young man along with several Chinese young people followed us in, curious about how we came to be there. His grandmother had gone to school in this mountain top village. I would have liked to know more of this story as I think it would have been quite an interesting piece of personal and cultural history.

We returned to our overpriced, musty, mildew-smelling, dirty hotel and checked out, needing to figure out how to make our way down this steep mountain. The three young women working there brainstormed, and hailed a taxi for us which took us up the mountain. The driver then secured us a place in a minivan to take us down the mountain. The minivan dropped us on a busy street corner 3 km from the bus station.

A young Chinese man who spoke some English then secured us a taxi to take us to the bus station. After 1-1/2 hours we ended up on a filthy old bus to Huangmei. We looked longingly at the air-conditioned long distance buses next to us as our rickety bus pulled out of the bus station. When the conductor at the gate saw our ticket was to Huangmei she gave us a brief look of pity (or was it sympathy)?

In Huangmei the bus driver dropped us at the corner of some rutted back streets. Across the street some young women in a bathroom fixture shop motioned us in. They gave us glasses of water and they and the people from the neighboring shop decided they must help us find an appropriate place to stay.
Then they called the owner of the shop who came and took us to a lovely hotel, the Royal Hotel; he stayed with us until he was assured that we would be well cared for. The staff of the hotel are enjoying practicing their English language skills with us and we are enjoying clean surroundings and air conditioning and a bathroom without jumping spiders.

In general, in the countryside, not many people speak English and here in the south, they speak a dialect that little resembles the Mandarin we learned. With almost no direct communication, quite a large number of people have helped us arrive at our destination with relative ease. We feel great appreciation for all the efforts they made for us.

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