Since my arrival in Mainland China, I've found the people here to be warm, friendly and extremely honest. While Guangzhou certainly sees its share of western travelers, stepping off the main drag and away from the large Western Hotels and restaurants that cater to western businessmen the appearance of a fair skinned westerner brings about much attention and the gazing and staring eyes of the curious Chinese. Upon catching the stare I'd make eye contact and flash a big smile. Sometimes when sitting in taxi and an industrial truck with a load of chinese in the bed, I'd simply smile and throw my head toward them with a friendly and welcoming nod. No matter what I did the reciprocial result was a warm smile and often a wave.
Passengers on the back of motorcycles would crane their necks taking in as much visual of this western unitl the bike disappeared into traffic. A young woman working an exhibit booth recognized me from Chicago where I visited the Housewares Show in April. Feeling like a new found friend she smile, greeted and offered pleasantries as I looked at her wares.
“I remember you, she said with a smile.
“Oh, really. That's so nice. I remember you, too.” perhaps stretching the truth but there was an air of familiarity I found in her smile.
“You were so fun. Happy. And talked to me,” she expressed.
This made me feel warm inside. True many people graze from booth to booth at large shows. If you've been on the exhibitor side you know how many people just shrug you off or walk by you as if you were invisible. I guess I made an impression. And I'm glad it was positive.
When I was at checkout at our hotel in Guangzhou the cashier took a phone call in the middle of hte transaction. At first I felt this was rude and she should finish our business and let one of the 5 other associates working behind the counter take the call. But upon hanging up she said, “you leave small bag black in room.”
She was right. There was a small zipper bag I used to carry loose items. But the zipper had failed and it had seen one too many trips. I thought I put it in the trash. But I'd left it on the desk.
Also, in Guangzhou I left another small black bag. This one with my digital video camera and my digital still camera. The hotel Together perhaps worth almost the annual income of an English speaking hotel worker. I know this because we met Sindy, a young woman offering her services as an interpreter or an agent. We took her out for a beer while in Guangzhou. She used to work for one of the bigger 5 star hotels in town. After a six year affair with a regular visiting Frenchman she moved to France to get married. After two years of dealing with his philandering and drinking she came back to Guangzhou. Now she was hoping to do business for herself. But tired of the hotel business and its pay — Monthly salary for a front desk clerk at a mid-range hotel was 1,400 – 2,500 RMB a month — that's $150 – $222 per month. Think about that for awhile.
Whever I went in China the smiles welcomed me. Walking down the crowded tourist mecca of West Street miles from the smog, noise and crowds of Guangzhou in Yangshou three teenage giggling girls came up to me. The bold one, about 5 feet with a perfectly round face and almond eyes surrounded by pristine complexion contrasted and framed beaufifully by striaght jet back hair tied with a yellow bow.
“Can I take a picture me with you?”
“Of course.” I said as she primped herself and handed the camera to her friend. Soon the others gained the courage and asked to have their picture taken with me, too. I guess I'm as much as an oddity to them as the wrinkled and weathered Chinaman farmer wearing a bamboo had while guiding his water buffalo plowing the picturesque rice fields. I'd like my picture taken with him.
On a long hike down the Li Jiang River from Yangti to XingPing we ran into a bunch of students celebrating the May 1st laborers holiday. When the sky opened up and drenched all of us hiking one of the young students offered his umbrella for Bryan and I to share. He didn't want to see us get soaking wet by the rains.
I'm liking China. Especially the people.