I decided to strike off on my own to discover the downtown area. I had a vague idea of how to get there, and was going to hop on a bus and see what happened. It rained during the morning, and when I went outside the day was blessedly cool, a first for my stay here. A gentle wind blew through the city like a collective sigh of relief. I was walking along the river toward a major street, when a 17-year-old boy suddenly appeared beside me, asking me if I spoke English. He wanted someone to practice with, as he’d only been learning English for one year, and he was hungry for any contact with foreigners. His English name was Mike, and he offered to accompany me downtown.
Mike said his brother spoke English better than he, and he called him from a phone at a small shop and told him to meet us. By this time my Midwestern skepticism was kicking in; I’m not used to such instant familiarity. Something like this would never happen in Los Angeles or Chicago, I thought. Besides, how could this young man and his brother just drop all their Saturday plans to play tour guides for a complete stranger? These two young men would become my traveling companions for the whole morning and afternoon. Just call me Dorothy.
We met “Jack,” Mike’s brother, after walking quite a ways down a side street. They didn’t understand just where I was going, so I pointed out the main square in downtown Chengdu on the map that my teaching assistant Sue had bought for me. We had our picture taken on the sidewalk, then walked to a bus stop to catch the #45. Since it was an air-conditioned bus, it cost 2 yuan, double the price of the hot buses. Mike paid my fare. We were off.
To make a long story short, I have two new friends. I was amazed at the generosity of the two brothers – during our adventure they paid for bus fares, a cab ride, lunch, and tea at a very expensive tea house, although it was far beyond their means. They felt responsible for me as a guest in their city, but I wish that I had insisted a bit harder on paying for some of these things. I’m discovering that the Chinese, or at least the Chengdu –ites (?) are extremely friendly, and will go out of their way to help you. Mike wanted me to come to his house for dinner tonight, he wanted to play basketball with me, and he invited me to go to see “Superman Comes Back.” I politely declined for the moment; I needed my rest after today’s Chengdu Adventure.
Here is what we did today: