Thursday, January 1, 2015

My new travel buddy

"You need to get off the bus now!" said the lady next to me when I asked where the Oasis Hotel was. I jumped up, swam through the dense crowd of people between myself and the door, and stepped off moments before the bus pulled away from the curb. I'd hopped on the bus when I realized I had 20 minutes to find a distant hotel to meet my tour group, not knowing exactly where I was headed. Walking back around the corner the bus had just turned, I saw a hotel down the block with some tourists out front. One of them had a voucher that looked just like mine....hallelujia!

"I think we're on the same tour!" I said to the Chinese man holding the voucher like mine, kicking off the start of my friendship with JD, an electrical engineer who came all the way from Singapore to
  1. See Chichen Itza (because it's one of the 7 Wonders of the World on some lists), but most importantly 
  2. See the Los Angeles Lakers play in person. 
Learning that he was a basketball fan, for the second time in two days I told the story of shaking Karl Malone's hand. He was impressed. I was impressed when he commented on the current Jazz team ("They are a young team" he told me, "and I think they need a better coach, but they have potential"). He knew much more about the NBA than I do. This guy is One. Serious. Basketball. Fan. Overhearing us, one of the guides jumped in: "One of the restaurants here has Shaquille O'Neal's shoes and they are HUGE", holding out his hands to show the enormity of the sneakers. "Really?" JD asked, holding out his hands to match "They are THIS big?" As they stood there together marveling at just how large a human foot could get, I knew I needed a photo.

When our tour bus arrived, JD and I were assigned to sit together, which worked well since we enjoyed visiting. When I told him about my Peace Corps service, he was puzzled at why the U.S. would have a program like that and why I would volunteer for such a thing. "Chinese people wouldn't do that because they are too worried about making money, " he said and then hesitated before asking "Excuse me, may I ask if you are married?" wondering how being married would fit in with the Peace Corps. (In two-days time, five Mexicans had already bluntly asked about my marital status, one of them within five minutes of landing there, so his polite way of posing the question was refreshing). When I told him I wasn't married but had 8 siblings and over 30 nieces and nephews, showing him a family photo, he was astounded.

He grew up near Beijing during China's 1-child-per-couple policy. The policy was relaxed recently, he said, because of the problems of not having enough young people to support their parents and grandparents. Now, couples who are only children themselves are allowed to have up to two kids. But, even if there were no restrictions at all, he thought Chinese people wouldn't dare to have large families like my parents', even though he believes a large family produces a happy life, because they would be too fearful about money. And I felt grateful once again for my good parents, who dared greatly.

JD recently decided to move back to China to be closer to his parents, and I sensed it was a painful decision for him. As soon as he gives up his Singapore passport for a Chinese one, he'll be restricted on where he can travel (that's why he's seeing as much as he can now). He will make less money in China. He'll be exposed to more pollution. He'll have a harder time finding a wife, since there are many more men than women in China due to sex-selective abortions related to the one child limitation. But, he thought it would be too difficult for his parents to come to Singapore, too difficult for them to adjust to a new culture and language, and so he planned to return instead. I admire him for that.

We enjoyed visiting...he asked me if the government owns all the farms in America; I explained our  agricultural economics as best I could. We talked about engineering...he didn't enjoy his software engineering classes but loved the electrical engineering ones. Together we debated the merits of the stuff people were trying to sell us. At one place, they took our photo together and then pasted it on a bottle of tequila they hoped to sell us...we decided to take a photo of the bottle instead.
"Are you guys engaged yet?" our guide joked, seeing how well we got along. We helped each other take photos of the sites...he wanted one of himself trying to blow down the "castle" pyramid at Chichen Itza, and I found a great angle for it (IMHO). I got a kick out of seeing him jump around trying to find the perfect angle to take this photo of me pushing on the pyramid.
I told him the Bible story of Sampson and Delilah, which he had never heard, and how Sampson died by pushing over the pillars supporting the building in which he was incarcerated. I tried to pose like Sampson in Chichen Itza's "Plaza of 1000 Pillars" and he informed me that I was smiling entirely too much and needed to grimace instead. Here's the best grimace I could muster.
The places you see when you travel are awesome, but the best part is the new friends you make!

1 comment:

Colleen Caldwell said...

Girl, I hope you plan on turning this blog into a book!

How blessed that you found JD. What an amazing man. His willingness to give up so much for his parents is deeply touching. Most kids feel their parents owe them. I hope the Lord will bless him greatly.

I am glad you are having fun. Our oldest daughter and her family just got back from this same unspellable-without-looking place. They said no one can climb the pyramid any more because of vandals. How sad.