Chengdu – Just another big city, except for…

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…except for the people we encountered. Chengdu began with a Smile.

Smile
“Smile” is the English name of the young lady whose apartment we rented. The name fits her well. She was very helpful (a 12-page handout ready for us with directions to everything we had mentioned in our email exchanges). What really stands out is the night of the Sichuan Opera.

  • We had arranged for tickets that included transportation. I couldn’t reach the company to confirm, so I decided we would go on our own. I asked Smile to arrange for a driver.
  • Near the time we were to leave, Smile sent me a message. It was a holiday and she thought a car would be too expensive so she would take us herself. (I found out later that it was a 30-minute drive from her home to the apartment).
  • She drove us to the ticket office and pulled into the bus unloading zone. After an argument with the guard (which she won) she took us inside to make sure we got our tickets.
  • The ticket people had no record of our reservation. Smile had a lengthy, animated conversation with them and got a manager involved. After about 10 minutes, I told Smile we would just buy tickets and I would get a refund later. I told her we could handle it from there, but she stayed until we had tickets in hand.
  • We walked back out and Smile told us to have a seat at a table. She had another conversation with the guard, pointing to us. As she left, he motioned something that meant “sit and stay”. We thought we would be forgotten, but he came back later and motioned us across the street to the line waiting to enter the theater.

Fiona
As we left the opera, I saw a young lady holding a sign with our name. When I identified myself, she began apologizing – over and over. I finally told her not to use the word “sorry” again. She was the tour guide who was supposed to pick us up. The reason I had not been able to confirm was because their office was closed for the holiday. She couldn’t believe that we were not upset. She hailed a taxi (after talking with the guard, who thought he was supposed to make sure we got back), got in with us, paid the driver, and went up to the apartment with us. She walked me through the process of applying for a refund. The next day, she sent me the confirmation of the refund. She was so nice and so worried that I sent an email to her manager bragging on her.

 

Sam Smith
We wanted to try Sichuan hot pot (Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan Province). We couldn’t find the restaurant Smile recommended, so we wandered into one that looked nice and was not crowded. ┬áIt was quickly obvious that they were not expecting English-speaking guests. No English menu, no English spoken. They led us to the kitchen area and let us point to the trays of food we wanted. Back at our table, one of the servers hovered and did everything for us. As we were eating, one of the workers brought a 12-year-old young man to our table and tried to get him to speak to us. He was embarrassed and ran away. This happened several times and we realized that they saw this as a good way for him to practice the English he was studying in school (since it was very unlikely he would encounter any other English-speaking people in his neighborhood). Later, he came to our table on his own and spoke to us. That started an hour-and-a-half conversation, with him doing most of the talking. His English name is Sam Smith. He called us “grandmother” and “grandfather”. We learned a lot about him, his family, and his school. His mother works at the restaurant as do several other relatives. He wanted to show us Chinese chess, so he took us to the back where his uncle and several others were talking and challenged his uncle to a game. His uncle won. As we were leaving, he asked for our phone numbers so he could stay in touch. He wanted to try the numbers before we left to make sure it worked, but we found that his phone wouldn’t call outside China. He asked if we could come back the next night. We explained that we had tickets to the opera but we would try to come back the following night. We did, of course, and found that we both had WeChat on our phones. We use that to stay in touch with this remarkable young man.

Score
Panda park: OK
Sichuan opera: Great
Best reasons to go back: Sam Smith, Smile and Fiona

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Posted: September 14, 2017

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Category: 2017, China, FBPosted, Map, Round-the-World 2017, Southeast Asia

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