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China – The Human Factor

People's Park, Chengdu, China

People’s Park, Chengdu, China

Since we spent more than five days in this city on and off we strayed to all kinds of places. Our favorite was People’s Park. Its entrance is guarded by the statue of a ferocious looking soldier pointing his gun at the people’s enemies? The inside of the park is very peaceful with lots of elderly people joining Tai Chi groups or just dance away, alone with a partner, all to the same music.

When we stopped at a corner, our map wide open, since we could not find the bus stop to take us back to our hostel, an elderly man approached us and offered his help. He spoke really good English, although he only had one year of English in middle school (!), as he fluently explained. He walked us around for some time till he found the right bus station with the help of many other people. We were so touched that we asked permission to take a photo of him. Both of us find it difficult to picture this kind of helpfulness in our home towns, Vienna or Paris.

Once we were on the bus, a young lady started chatting with us. She was about to be a primary teacher and had attended private English lesson for three years. These encounters left us very impressed. Despite the fact that these people hardly ever have a chance to speak English, they could carry on a conversation and above all used every possibility to practice, like approaching complete strangers.

Another unique experience was Heidi’s trip to a seamstress to have some clothes mended. In Europe, we would not dare to give them to charity, but we have become so sentimental of the faded, worn T-shirts and pants that have accompanied us during this trip that we could not part with it and had it stitched together.

The lady worked about 20 minutes on these three pieces, minor repairs, and charged 0.6 Euros. The discrepancy between this ridiculous low income on the one hand and prices at tourist destinations on the other hand left us a bit puzzled. Most of the services seem very cheap for us, but Chinese tourists usually pay the same for bus tickets and entry fees…

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