But I am a horrible bike rider!
So what if I didn’t get to do everything I wanted? It’s really all about who you meet in the end. The more I travel, the more I believe that it’s not really about the places at all — it’s about the people you encounter.
I don’t want to spend my life trying to check off sites from a list of places I should see before I die. I just want to visit different countries and see what each reveals to me, no matter if it’s mundane or extraordinary.
Take Maurice, for example. Just an ordinary guy visiting Suzhou the same day I was there:
More often though, it was the other way around — people would approach me and ask if they could take a photo together. When this happened, I sometimes asked if we could also take one on my camera, so I could remember them. Usually I was approached by Chinese tourists who were making their first visit to the big city:
“Excuse me? You take picture with me?”
“Thank you. And welcome to China! You are a very beautiful woman.”
I’ll miss these unsolicited “beautiful woman” compliments!
I also met Heng Yi Ling at the same park, a sweet 18 year-old visiting Beijing with her dad. While we listened to women singing opera, Heng Yi’s dad encouraged her to practice speaking English with me. Talking to Chinese children was especially amusing and enjoyable.
In Shanghai, a woman making her first visit to the city sat next to me while we ate dumplings. When we were finished eating, she asked for a photo…and I asked for one too:
As I type this, I’m remembering other folks too — there was Cedric from Philadelphia, who I said hello to at the Forbidden City because I noticed he was wearing a tee shirt from the school I used to work at. After chatting for a few moments, he snapped a photo of me too!
I met lots of expats also, and was grateful for the perspective they shared — my Couchsurfing host, the folks at The Bookworm and True Run Media, my Shanghai friends and their network of international pals.
But I met a whole bunch of interesting people. And learned that the world is full of a lot of snappy happy folks, including myself! Which is not such a bad thing, because I now have a virtual memory box of faces, names and interactions that shaped my first look at China.
There is one more special person I met on my way out of the country. I’ll wrap up the Chinese Buffet series tomorrow with a story about the adventure we shared…