Sat 24 Jul 2010 26 °C
Today we visited the Longman Grottoes and Shaolin Temple. Or, at least, the pictures show that I was there. During the heavy rainfall I tended to keep my eyes on the ground. We had the heaviest rainfall we've seen so far in China, and everything was soaked. We walked along the swiss-cheese mountainside and tried to make the best of it.
We signed up for the cheaper tour through our hostel - the one with a tour guide with "not perfect English". This actually meant NO English in our case. Our fellow travellers were three Chinese men, and they were stuck with us for the day. We got by with gestures during lunch (good thing I brushed up on my Chinese dining etiquette) but one man in particular really wanted to talk to us. He tried with all the English he knew ("Me China. You?") but when Toby launched into his family history, his eyes glazed over.
So it shouldn't have been a surprise when about 20 minutes into the Longman tour a young man approached us and said, "This man wants to know where you are from." He was an English major, (how did the man know that?) who said he had been too nervous to talk to foreigners until now. He and his petite girlfriend stayed with us for the rest of the day, interpreting the guide's explanations, asking us questions on behalf of the man, and telling us about himself. He even held his umbrella for us while we listened.
I am starting to learn that no matter where you are, or what language you speak, people will look out for you. Last night we followed our hostel's recommendation for some local food in Luoyang. We sat in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and handed over a piece of paper with the Chinese writing explaining what we wanted. A curious man, obviously drunk, also tested his English skills on us. "China very beautiful. Thank you very much. What is your name?" At first we responded politely, but when he ran out of English words he started shouting at us in Chinese. Like mother hawks, two ladies emerged from the kitchen. One took a protective stance over us and gestured for us to ignore him. The other sat close to him and scolded him in Chinese. When he protested and became angry, they escorted him out of the restaurant. "Xie xie," was the only way we could thank them.