I lay silently on the hotel dorm bed, with a sheet pulled over my head to cover my tear-stricken face. You and the other 2 girls that occupied the rest of the beds in the room talked lively with each other in Chinese. Of course I couldn’t understand, and I really did not care to. I didn’t even say hi when you checked in,  pretending to be sleeping at 4pm.

You must have taken pity on me. I never asked. But when I finally got up and had some energy to move around the next morning, you asked if I wanted to go somewhere because you could drop me off with the electric scooter you’d rented, and you even invited me to tour the peninsula with you. I said yes.

You recently graduated from an engineering school in Hangzhou, while I’ve been working for a few years already, and you’d still not let me split the bike rental with you. We talked about life for you in China and for me in Vietnam, about salary and consumption and real estate market, about family and obligations. You told me to go home from university you’d have to take a 50 hour train or a 7 hour plane ride; I almost couldn’t comprehend that distance within a single country. You broke off the contract of a good job in Beijing and had to pay a hefty fine because you wanted to take another job in Chengdu where apartments are much cheaper and with your salary maybe you can buy your own place within 3 years so your widowed mom can come visit you a few months of the year. You studied English really hard from 2002 till 2008, when you started university. You’re in no way fluent but your English is very good for an engineering student that has never been to an English speaking country. And you use such American phrases like “you freak me out” or “watch out” that’s from watching American movies. I realized you’re the first Chinese that I’ve talked with in depth that’s not one of the study abroad crowd. You’re in a way so typically Chinese and at the same time do lots of things that I’d not expect from a mainlander. I know it’s such a silly thing to say; the country has a billion people after all.

We ate noodle, rode scooter, drank sugar cane juice, went to the night market and played darts. Your simple way moved me. You’re one of those kindhearted people that I might never see again but will think of often with warm wishes from the bottom of my heart. I hope you’ll get to travel more, save enough to buy an apartment soon, maybe get a gf. I’ve been touched so many generous people all these years, and I always tell myself that I need to be kinder to others to pay it forward. And yet I’m still cold and distant and standoffish. This needs to change. I hope I can be so unassumingly graceful like you.

Jialeshui beach, Manzhou, Kenting, Taiwan

Longpan park, Kenting, Taiwan, East CoastKenting, east coast, Taiwan