China and the Kindness of Strangers

For some it’s just a business-as-usual Monday. Hoards of Chinese are on the metro getting to their workplaces and starting their week. Being crammed on the peak hour train with my luggage was something that I could only but smile about, feeling a great amount of relief that I don’t have to do this everyday… that would be torture but it’s indeed a daily occurrence for the citizens of Shanghai and so many other overpopulated cities in the world.

It’s easy to get annoyed in these situations. The pushing, shoving and the overall feeling that everyone is out their for themselves with little regard for others can get to you, if you let it. It’s also easy to think that this almost selfish way of getting around big cities will then transfer into other situations too.

I finally arrive at the airport and enjoy some much needed breathing space. Making it to the check-in counter, I hear the words that travellers dread, “Your flight has been delayed due to bad weather”, and “You’ll miss your connecting flight”. Arrghhh! Not really knowing what this means for me and how to rectify the situation, I can only gaze on at the airline staff as they politely tell me to wait a moment, many times.

After a couple of these moments, I realise that there’s nothing for me to do but to go with flow. I patiently wait for the Hong Kong Airlines staff to get a plan in place, or at least attempt to get me to Hanoi, Vietnam today. All I can do is wait.

Looking on at one staff in particular, he’s on the phone a lot, looking a bit stressed and worried and I realise he’s the one with the task of helping me. From the look of it, he’s trying his best, even going beyond his usual duties to assist. That’s the thing about China; in amongst the pushing and seeming disregard for others, there are golden gems of kindness.

The Chinese people that I’ve had direct contact with have been amazingly friendly and helpful and for that I’m so appreciative. One such example was soon after arriving in China and realising that my suitcase I had packed for Thailand was ill-equipped for the early spring weather. The wife of my Airbnb host quickly switched into mother-mode and lent me two of her woollen jumpers for the duration of my stay. Another Airbnb experience was in Shanghai and being invited out to dinner by my host and his friends.

Yet another example of this was the lovely woman who offered to translate for me at the Chinese acupressure massage centre while she waited to get a massage herself. Her big belly laughs and interest in what I was doing in China made the strong, almost tearful, massage so much more enjoyable and a true cultural experience.

And now, after a couple of hours of waiting patiently for instructions of what I should do in order to get to Hanoi, the ever-so-helpful airline staff has come to my rescue. Rather than getting on my original flight, they have organised a new ticket with a different airline and it’s a direct flight. Sure, they are just doing their job but all to often I hear of horror airport stories of airline staff not being helpful and not caring in the slightest about your woes.

As I get ready to leave the motherland, I give thanks and deep gratitude to all of the Chinese who have helped me along the way… my Airbnb hosts, the Hong Kong Airline staff, all of the restaurant staff and shopkeepers who were patient enough with me and my extremely limited language skills. China, you’re full of good people and for that you should be proud!

2015-05-18T16:27:50+00:00 By |Digital Nomad, Travel|0 Comments

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