China, Day One Continues...
I wasn’t sure when or where to get off the bus. I was feeling anxious and worried we might miss our stop. “Randy do you know when we are supposed to get off?” Yes, he made it. I was looking for landmarks out the window and noticed a western couple in the back of the bus (no pun intended). I wonder if they could help. I hope they speak English. “Are you guys going to the youth hostel?” Their names were Ursula and Daniel from Denmark and they did speak English…thank god. Daniel yelled back at me, “this is our stop.” I had to push and shove my way off the bus. We walked to where we thought our hostel was. It was dark now and no one can read the signs because they are all in Chinese. We just followed the instructions in the Let’s Go China book. Walk three blocks and take a left at the bakery… We found it. (Secretly, I was so relieved and happy…I was a little worried) It was a large dormitory with 20-30 cots for beds lined up in perfect formation. Each cot had a gray wool blanket and that’s it. The air smelled but I couldn’t tell you of what. It wasn’t a bad smell just different. The bathrooms reminded me of a high school gym with rows of showers and sinks. I felt really gross from traveling all day. I decided to take a shower before we headed out to get something to eat. I grabbed my towel, shampoo, soap, flip flops, and a change of clothing from my backpack. I asked Randy to keep an eye on the backpack and money belt (money belts are belts with secret compartments, often worn under your shirt around your waist to keep your money, credit cards, passport, and any other important document safe from sticky-fingered pickpockets) while I showered. The shower tile was old with cracks and the water was cold. This was no glamour tour. It was nothing fancy but I was glad we had a place to sleep.
I was starving so we all went out to eat at a street café (which is basically you’re eating on the sidewalk) It’s very hard to communicate when you can’t speak the local language. I had to just point at what I wanted to eat and say “two, please.” Holding up two fingers hoping they understood what I meant. As we were eating the people walking by would make eye contact and suddenly just stop and stare. Then a crowd formed around us…just watching us and speaking among themselves like they were at the zoo looking at an animal exhibit. “This sucks,” Randy cried. He was getting frustrated trying to eat with chopsticks. No forks in China. He would get so close then the food would drop back in the bowl. I saw he was really getting upset and ready to grab his dumpling with his fingers when I said, “Stop!” He looked at me, with an expression of “what.” “If you touch your food with your fingers you will “lose face,” I said to him as I looked at all the people watching us. “I’ll lose what?” Randy cried. “It’s forbidden and rude to touch your food with your fingers, especially with your left hand, I’ll let you figure out why on your own,” I said with a yuk face. Randy took a minute or two …. “oh shit.” I was like, ”Ya…exactly.” We both started laughing. Now I was getting a little annoyed with the crowd. They were getting really close and standing over me as I ate. I started feeling claustrophobic and targeted. I didn’t understand why they found me so interesting to look at. Maybe they were commenting on my superior chopsticks skills. I asked Ursula, “Why are they staring at me? Did I do something wrong?” She laughed, “No, they are just fascinated with how you look. They have never seen a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed female.” What? I guess I didn’t think something like that was even possible. As we walked back from dinner we stopped at a shop to buy some sweets. Crowds formed all around us. People started to come up and ask to take a picture with me. At first, it felt weird but then thought what the hell. As we were leaving the sweet shop a woman actually fell off her stool because she was staring so intently at me as I walked past that she lost her balance. We all burst out laughing!
“Embrace your difference. It's what makes you stand out in the world" ~Barbara Murphy-Shannon
Yes, this is a true story. This is an excerpt from the book I’m writing based on my trip around the world backpacking when I was 24-years old. The experiences and benefits of traveling abroad are countless and last a lifetime. To say that I loved traveling is a massive understatement. Traveling will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I can truly say that I would not be the person that I am today if it weren’t for the lessons that I learned along the way. Traveling is an opportunity like no other, and I wish everyone could experience the magic, the people, and the freedom it provides. I plan to share an excerpt now and again and would love to hear back from you. How did it make you feel? Do you have a similar story? What has been your experience traveling abroad or anywhere?
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