Lost!

This is the first in a series of posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: China program this summer. This post is written by Karsten, and I’m gonna tell a story about getting lost and discovering China’s hospitality. Earlier today, I was with three other first-year Chinese language students also on the Crossroads program. We were trying to find an apartment that had a kitchen for us to cook in. However, the conundrum was: individually we knew little Chinese and we didn’t have a great idea of where we were going. The solution: going out of our comfort zone and using our Chinese to ask for help! We had made it all the way from our hotel, to the other side of Yunnan University’s campus, across a couple of roads, into a gated apartment block, and up some staircases, when we realized that we had no idea where we were. I mean, the whole time we really had no idea where we were, but this was when it got real; when we actually felt lost. There was this feeling of confusion mixed with fear that shrouded my body, making it harder to think. Luckily, right as this peak moment occurred, two women walked down the staircase. With first eye contact, one student engaged in dialogue and it was clear that the two women only spoke Chinese and no English. However, we were really lost and needed any help we could find. Together, we were able to piece together how to ask for help and showed the two women the address of the apartment. The women helped us instantly, and without question. One recognized right away that we were at the wrong building and ran to the bottom of the stairs and down the road to find the correct building. While the other stayed with us and tried to find the address via Apple Maps. We were working together to speak to the women and our tool-house of Chinese grew four fold. The woman came back and spoke to the other woman and they led us down the stairs we were on and showed us the apartment where we were trying to go. The four of us thanked the women profusely and they both did a little bow and said something we didn’t understand but I’m assuming it was along the lines of “you’re welcome.” After they left, we all just looked at each other and agreed that that level of hospitality would be rare to find in the States. We also didn’t expect that sort of hospitality in China, but we were ever grateful for it. However, our professor wasn’t surprised by our story at all. For the few days that we’ve been here, there has been a constant theme of kindness and helpfulness as we’ve tried to figure out our way around China which has been aiding me immensely in learning 中文 (Chinese).

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