Across Continents

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One in a billion

Foreigner“. The tone disconcerting rather than threatening. Bravado of the sorts I thought he’d be far too cowardly to show when sober. As is usually the case. If I was torn over what to do, it was whether to pity him or despise him. I eventually chose the latter. Excessive drinking an aggravating factor, not a mitigation or a defence.

But, distain aside, I’d found myself feeling quite disappointed. Not simply the only instance of aggression I’d encountered in China. No, it was more than that. The only less than hospitable encounter. True, I’d been ignored by a few strangers I’d sought to engage with, but that was something I’d always thought understandable. Imagining how I’d react if someone like me pitched up on a bicycle, usually asking for directions with only the most rudimentary grasp of my own language.

The present situation was one easily dealt with. I left. Already quite late. And the next day? By the following evening I’d a bag of apples, a box of moon cakes and a couple of litres of water. All gifts thrust upon me at various stops I’d made. Not that my faith in the kindness of strangers really needed any restoration.

[Author’s note: Wrestled for a while as whether or not to recount this encounter, not wishing to give, however inadvertently, a distorted picture of China. In the end, decided to publish details because it happened, a factual account rather than just opinion. Besides, it’s not really a story about aggression towards foreigners, rather one of their (almost) unequivocal welcoming by ordinary Chinese people. A case of an exception proving the rule. So far, one in roughly a billion]

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