Have you received kindness from strangers when you were traveling? Submit your story and it may be published here! This is the 23rd edition of the Kindness on the Road series. Read how the kindness of people in China renewed Celina Canaber‘s faith in humanity.
Before I went to China, I’ve read the first-hand experiences of people who have visited the country. I have also heard of stories of Mainland Chinese nationals misbehaving in our country and in every country they visit, so I couldn’t help but stereotype and generalize them.
So I went with very low expectations of Beijing as well as some preconceptions.
True enough, I had an unpleasant time from the very moment I arrived in Beijing. I had a series of unfortunate events. I got lost going to my hostel; I missed every activity I booked and had to rebook them; I felt cheated on some tours, and got poorly treated by the tour guide. I ate bad food that ruined my stomach, got lost some more and missed my bus going to Mongolia.
I said to myself, “Beijing isn’t really for me.”
With all of these misfortunes, it’s hard to believe that I had the best time in Beijing. It wasn’t the attractions nor the food and shopping; it was due to the people I met there.
Here goes my story of Chinese hospitality and kindness.
That day, my translation app wasn’t working properly so I couldn’t really have a conversation. I got lost and mistakenly took the wrong bus going to the terminal where I could take the bus going to the border of China and Mongolia.
The driver and the bus guard were kind enough to let me stay in the bus so they could drop me off in right bus stop. The bus guard wrote my bus number on paper so I would not forget.
I also didn’t have 1 yuan to pay for the bus fare; a fellow passenger noticed me trying to look for a coin and gave me 1 yuan so I could pay the bus fare. However, the bus conductor didn’t even let me pay.
When I got off at the bus stop, the generous lady who gave me 1 yuan also got off with me, stayed by my side, and didn’t leave me until my bus came. She showed me the schedule board, my bus number, its route, and where I’d be getting off.
Given my wonky translator app, we only communicated by sign language. She asked me if I had eaten; I told her I was full but she insisted on giving me a huge tomato (they eat it like an apple) and two delicious local buns. She also insisted on giving me money and shoved it in my bag even though I showed her I have enough yuan.
I was on the verge of crying.
My bus came and she talked to the driver and the guard to make sure they will take care of me and drop me off my stop.
I told her, “Xie xie” (thank you) multiple times with my bad accent while bowing to her with tears falling from my eyes until the bus door closed.
I cried the whole trip until I got to my destination, the Xinfadi bus terminal.
Since I was lost for so long, I missed my bus going to Mongolia. It was 8pm. The next available bus would be for the next day at 5:30pm.
It wasn’t part of the plan so I didn’t have a place to stay for the night. I asked the cashier if there was a hotel nearby where I could stay for the night, and she told me to just turn right from the station.
I had walked for a long time and all I saw was one hotel who didn’t accept me because they didn’t accept credit cards. I only had 100 yuan left because I bought the bus ticket to Mongolia with cash and the rest of my money was in US dollars. The rate for one room was 180 yuan a night.
I decided to just go back to the terminal and stay at the lounge.
To my surprise, the terminal was already closed. It was 9pm and it wouldn’t open until the next day. Tnight was getting deeper and I still didn’t have a place to stay.
I turned into the tiny guard house on the entrance just before the parking lot and asked the security officers there if they know of a hotel nearby where I could stay for the night. They said there was one that charges 100 yuan for a night.
The older guy didn’t want me to get lost so he told me he would take me there himself on his electric bike\.
We went to a number of places where I’ve learned that not every hotel would accept a foreign national. The last one we went to was a bigger hotel so it got my hopes up. They did accept foreigners; however, they charge 280 yuan a night, there was no ATM around, and they didn’t accept credit card payments.
At that time, I was already very embarrassed. The security officer tried his best to find me a place but there just wasn’t a place I could stay. I didn’t want to bother him any longer so I asked for us to just go back to the station.
Back at the station, the younger guy was surprised to see us back together. At that time, their chief was already there, and he had a working Chinese to English translation app. I told him we tried, and failed, to find a hotel that accepts foreigners and charges 100 yuan or less per night.
It was already 10pm and they were getting ready to go home. I told them I didn’t want to bother them any longer. I asked if they could just let me sleep outside the station for the night and I’ll just transfer inside when the station opens in the morning. The chief repeatedly said no; he said he wouldn’t let me be in danger by sleeping outside.
He asked my name and introduced himself. His name was Zhong and the younger security personnel’s name was Yang. I wasn’t able to ask the name of the personnel who let me ride his electric bike.
Zhong told me, “It must’ve been difficult to be on your own in a foreign land. I am your friend.”
Upon reading his message, I felt a lump in my throat and my lips quivered. I was able to hold back my tears but I was just deeply and earnestly touched.
I gave him a “Thank you” from the depths of my heart.
He then offered to let me sleep in their sleeping quarters. He gave me a pear and talked some more to me about random things and let me hear some Chinese music. After we ate and talked, he directed me to the washroom so I could wash up and get ready for bed.
There were 2 beds in the sleeping quarters and Yang gave me his bed on the upper bunk. They said there were more beds inside the station but since I don’t have an employee ID, I couldn’t go inside. He would be sleeping there and I would be sleeping in his bed for the night.
I thanked them and slept.
In the morning when I woke up, they were already working outside at past 6am. Zhong saw me when he went back inside and told me I could sleep some more. I said I could go to the station so I wouldn’t bother them anymore, but he asked me to stay for breakfast. He said I could just stay there and get all the sleep I needed until 5pm because it wouldn’t be comfortable for me to wait in the station.
He prepared a bountiful Chinese breakfast and ate with me. They wanted to give me their food at lunctime, too, but I insisted to buy my own food and I also bought some ice cream for all of us to enjoy.
I stayed in the headquarters and talked to them whenever they had break times. They gave me some mooncakes and I gave them some Philippine snacks that I brought with me. I slept some more, fixed my things, washed up and got ready to go.
Eventually, it was time for me to leave.
I told them how much I appreciated their kindness towards me and how thankful I was to meet them and spend time with them. I wanted to give them hugs but I was holding myself back because I might make them feel uncomfortable.
We quickly said our goodbyes, snapped some photos and Zhong asked Yang to take me to the station. Yang took my bags and led me to the station. He also talked to the boarding staff to look after me and to not let me miss my bus.
I was all ready to go.
Well, I thought I was, but when I was left on my own in the waiting hall of the station, sadness hit me hard. Tears just started falling. I felt so sad to leave. I felt like I left a piece of my heart in their small room.
I felt so heartbroken. They were my family for that short time even though it was hard to communicate with me. They were so good to me. I appreciated them so much but I didn’t even give them a hug.
When the bus didn’t arrive at departure time, I went to the boarding staff and told them that I left something in the security headquarters so I needed to go back. At first, they were hesitant to let me go but I told them I’d be back very quickly.
The truth was, I left nothing but a piece of my heart, and I didn’t want it back. I just wanted to give the hugs I wanted to give or else I would regret it for the rest of my life.
I ran to the headquarters with my big heavy bags.
I ran to them while trying to catch my breath and showed them my translated message on my phone saying, “I just want to give you a hug. Goodbye.”
I hugged them so tight and ran back to the station quickly. They were so confused and got worried because it was past the departure time.
I got back to the station and a few minutes after, Yang was there to check if I missed my bus. He was relieved to know that my trip just got delayed and I didn’t miss it. I smiled at him and said goodbye before he left.
I was still sad and my eyes were still wet but my heart was happy I was able to give them hugs and let them know how much I truly I appreciated them.
I was sad.
I was guilty.
I was mad at myself.
I couldn’t imagine having prejudged some pure-hearted people like them just because I let stories in the media fan the hate inside of me.
I’m sharing this story now because it is very timely. I’ve been seeing a lot of negativity, not just towards Beijing locals but all mainland Chinese nationals as well, in Philippine media platforms. Please think twice before making judgments and generalizations.
Chinese people are not to be hated. Maybe some of them can be considered inconsiderate when traveling outside China, but we can also say the same thing about other nationalities.
Never let hate rule your heart.
In every place in the world there can be good and bad but one bad apple doesn’t define the whole tree.
What I know is that I went to Beijing with judgment and prejudice in my heart, but I left full of gratitude and appreciation to the Chinese people who made sure that a young, solo female traveler from the Philippines was safe and had good memories of their country.
For that, I will be grateful to them forever.
Do you have any stories of kindness abroad? Email me!