Travel Angels. OBA-MAO. Beijing, China.

2 Nov


Not sure when I will be back to Beijing. Leaving a city of fog, dust and mist. In route to the airport to stay a night at the Hilton. Tip a hat to the travel angels blessing me today.

From my previous blog, you note I can handle underground travel.  My challenge is above ground — maps, street signs and roads. Goal today was to buy Christmas presents for the family.  They have orders in for the OBA-MAO t-shirts —  “made in China.”

Found the Beijing metro. Bought the 2 Yuan ticket.  Made it to the market metro stop — or so I thought.  Problem was Beijing tourist map is not drawn to scale nor are the streets marked in English or Chinese.   This time, I have NO pride.  I was asking for help.

I asked the ticket lady which exit – N, S, E, W – would get me to the market. You are probably wondering how a non-Mandarin speaker is going to translate this question to a non-English speaker. One alphabet has 26 characters. The other, over 2,600. It’s all about the smile and pointing. I pointed. She shook her head. I repeated myself again. She shook her head and started her lyrical pronunciation of Mandarin. I smiled. She started counting on her fingers to me. Found out a few days prior that our hand gestures  for counting are not the same. We are still not communicating.

Finally, she said A. I heard A. I walked to A. At the sign labeled “A,” I asked the military girls for direction. Pointed at the map. They said “A” too. This is not going to be that hard. I climb the stairs. I see the light. I stop. Shit. I’m in a residential area. What I refer to as the “REAL” China.  Real people.  Real life.  Really lost.

I refuse to analyze. Refuse to allow my brain to think, “I can do this on my own.. I can figure this out…”  Before I went there, I asked God for help. “Ok.  Quick.  God, we GOT to find someone — and fast… before Pride takes over…” A young man and older gentleman with a cane approach.

I smile. Smile. They smile. People in China smile a lot, unlike Russia.  So, we’re all smiling. I say, “Help?” I show them my map. I speak one word at a time.

“I here. Want here. Help?”

I repeat it three times….They are going back and forth. I interrupt.  They ignore me.  On my fourth time, the young guy said in English, “You are at the wrong stop. You want to go to the Hunang market. You need to follow us. We are taking a bus in that direction.  We will lead you. Come with us…” My mouth dropped open.  I want to kiss the little dude.  You speak English.  Good English? Thank you God!  You SCORED on the travel angel.

I followed them.

Young guy is studying to be a medical doctor, focusing on genetics. He has one year left at Beijing University Hospital. One of his professors is from America and is “very pretty.” I smiled. He is with the old man because old man wants to sell young doctor a bicycle. Young doctor needs a new bicycle.

I asked him, “So, how did you find old man? On the internet? How did you know he has a bike for sale.”

He responded, “He just walked up to me on the street. I was visiting friends. And, he asked the group if we needed a bike. He sells a bike. And, I need a bike. So, I’m following him back to his house to see his bike.” Talk about trust.

We all jumped on the bus. Only ONE Yuan. Translation: $.15 or so. This is one thing the government WILL subsidize the cost. Public transportation. Too many cars in the city. Looks bad for the Beijing…

The older Chinese man sits down and smile at me. He starts in. I don’t speak the language, but when he found out I was from the Ameri-CA, I was waiting. And, I was right. Young doctor dude looked a little embarrassed as does the people around him. No matter. I love my country. Bring it on baby.

Young doctor translating old man: “Obama. You like your president?”

Me: “Do I like him as a person or as a leader of the free world?”

Old Man: Looks confused. “US military is strong, but not that strong. You go to war…in Afghanistan.  You in Korea.  Japan. China… US military becoming weak…”

Me: “As a person, I like Obama. What’s not to like. As the leader of our country, I disagree with his policies and overall management of the US economy.

American people are angry. We vote with our pocket book. When we feel poor. When politicians promise, and don’t deliver. When they waste our money. We kick them out. I go to market now and buy an OBA-MAO t-shirt…For Christmas…” I smile. I don’t think he got the joke.

People in the bus look on in amusement. I saw one person nodding their head. Anther one, turned his head out the window. The whole bus was quiet.

Old Man: “Ohhh.. Your military.  Your government is weak. US is weak. China is getting stronger in military…. China is strong. It’s people are strong…”

Me: “Our military is strong.  We have different military goals than China.  China may hit us economically for little bit — but not military, no?”

Old Man: “We are the super power. Not US. Our military is strong.”

I just smiled. We went around and around and around… His focus was on military power, while mine was economic. I wonder what the government is feeding them..

The bus stops. The young doctor gets out of the bus with me, telling the driver to wait. He draws a line from the stop to my final destination on the map. “Follow only this street. You will get there. Good luck to you!!”

I wanted to kiss the dude, my travel angel. I wished him good luck with genetics and getting a good price for his bike. And, off I went in search of my OBA-MAO t-shirt.

Thank you God for sending me a travel angel.  Just leave it to YOU… And, when I hailed a cab back, a Chinese woman picked me up.  Haven’t seen a female taxi yet.

She smiled at me and said, “For, you I know short cut to hotel… very worry…very fast…” Ah…. so nice… It’s the little things to be thankful for.  Thank you God…

Oh, I got something better. No OBA-MAO t-shirts. But, OBA-MAO beach bags!  T-shirts were made for little people.  And, Day family is anything but petite or little..

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