A reminder for myself

Trip Start Aug 23, 2010
Trip End Jul 15, 2011

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Flag of China  , Zhejiang,
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I know I spend a fair amount of time harping about the things in China that frustrate me, but today I got a little reminder of one of the great things about China: how willing people are to go out of their way (a lot out of their way) to help the strange foreigners.

Today I was trying to find a train ticket kiosk that I knew was located somewhere in the near vicinity of my apartment. I got to the corner I was looking for, but wasn't able to see the ticket office. I decided to pop into a mom and pop convenience store on the same corner and attempt to ask for directions using some rudimentary Chinese. There was a clerk in his mid-20's working the counter, and I managed to communicate that I wanted tickets for the fast train to Shanghai. He mentioned that he didn't think the store across the street had fast train tickets, only the slow trains. Within a few minutes a small crowd had gathered out of nowhere (this often happens) with a bunch of Chinese people nattering away debating about where the foreigner can buy the desired train tickets. Eventually the group consensus was that I need to go to a different kiosk (from what I gathered). So the clerk yelled something upstairs, and another family member took over the store and the clerk motioned for me to follow him. I figured that the kiosk I was looking for must have been just down the street or something.....so I followed him. We walked one block....two blocks...three blocks.....4 blocks..5.....made a few turns and got to one of the major roads in the area. The guy, (who I by now had learned is from Hubei, is 24 years old, and is named Wang Sheng Ji), took out some coins wondering if I had any change. Yes I do I showed him. He says Hao de (OK!), and we went to a bus stop. Apparently we were going to be heading somewhere that requires a bus trip! At this point, I decided maybe it would be best to call my Chinese associate Cecily to double check with her about the first stores whereabouts that she had told me about, and have her talk to the dude I was with. After another long conversation in Chinese, it was deemed that the first ticket office I was looking for DID in fact have tickets for the fast train. So, we walked back 1, 2, 3, 4 blocks...5, made a few turns BACK to where we started and he took me to a ticket booth right around the corner from his store. He helped me buy tickets, refused any payment for his efforts, and happily went back to work. 
So I realize the story just sounds like a five minute job turned into an hour long journey, but I was just so struck by how this guy just on the spot took an hour out of his day to try to help out a complete stranger to buy train tickets. Nobody in Canada would do that I am sure. He didn't want anything in return, he was just very happy to help me out. Thats the kind of thing that regularly happens to foreigners in China....and its one of the things that I have grown accustomed to over here, and kind of take for granted now. It's the kind of thing I think will stay with me once I leave here and look fondly back upon. I'm glad it's like that when you travel: you leave behind a different country, usually forget many of the frustrations, and usually end up remembering the good things about it. I often speak about the things that China needs to learn from us, but I'm glad every now and then things like this today happen that remind me that we have a lot to learn from the Chinese also.
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