Summer in China: Qingxian, Hebei Province

June 28, 6:30pm. Took a taxi that brought me to an intersection 25 miles away from Tianjin airport where I could meet up with my friend Cai. On the way, the taxi driver quickly discovered my imperfect mandarin and realized how far I traveled from. We started to talk about our work, our cities, the food, the Olympics, on and on. We eventually arrived at the intersection just to find out that Cai was still 20 minutes away.

So here I was at a crossroad myself, knowing from others' stories how dangerous it could be for a single traveler, especially a woman, to be sitting in a taxi in a remote area. Yet this taxi driver was definitely one of the nicest drivers I've ever come across, which led me wonder how to respond to his "overfriendliness". What was it about? He commented about the area not safe enough for me to stand alone on the street with my belongings. He offered to let me stay in his car while Cai was on her way; he even stopped the meter so I wouldn't need to pay extra. Back and forth he talked on the phone with Cai 3 times to make sure we were at the right meeting place. Finally as we saw Cai on the opposite side of the street, he asked her to stay still and he would make our way there by making a big loop.

Cai and I finally met up. She was utterly blown away by the driver's nice act... as a local she thought he's truly one of a kind. At the end of the encounter, the driver shook hands with me, and with a grin, he said he felt honored to be able to give me a ride, a traveler from far far away. He believed it was "the work of karma that put us together". THAT phrase, that moment was what I wanted to remember.

My short stay in Qingxian was filled with more kind gestures accompanied by lots of good food. Every meal was specially planned featuring local delights. Cai invited me to stay at hers, a cozy sweet home giving me a glimpse of what a simple village life is like. A home where privacy is not a priority and everyone shares the joy of seeing each other in action, which means no curtains on any windows or doors which allows you to overlook the next room. Hmm...

Talking about being basic... for the first time in my life, I took a bath in a 20-inch plastic bowl with 4-inch water, managed to take care of my businesses in holes & buckets, slept at a bed with a tent-like mosquito net covering over it, and tolerated sleeping without air conditioning in warm humid summer nights.

What more to ask for when you're being well taken care of? Cai woke up every morning at 5:30am to get groceries and make full breakfast for me. When I got bit in the middle of the night, she would wake up and kill the bugs with bare hands, then sooth my skin with a q-tip dipped with her mysterious alcohol poison. Sharing a bed, she would keep herself in an idle position so she won't wake me up.

Well that's called... being too sweet.