Ben – our driver


I know it sounds so pretentious to say that we have a driver but we do. There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s required as we’re not allowed to drive. Believe me, even if we could we wouldn’t want to. The traffic patterns are bizarre. The locals know how it works but I’ll be darned if I can make any sense of it. Even the pedestrians walk out in front of moving vehicles without any outward sign of fear. It’s not frightening because no one is really driving fast and on the rare occasion you see an accident it’s little more than a fender bender. I’ve had scarier taxi rides in NYC! Anders got to choose our vehicle. After much hemming, hawing, and asking for my opinion (I had none) he decided on a Buick mini-van type thing. It’s a vehicle that’s unique to Asia and nice. It’s also brand new and Ben likes it a lot.

I met Ben at the airport on the morning I arrived. He’s tall, maybe 6′ or more, lean, and about 30.  He  of course was sporting a big smile and didn’t in the least bit look nervous to meet the American he’d be driving around for the next 3 years of his life. It was also Anders’ first day meeting him and I guess he had paved the way by being his usual affable self. He helped carry the bags to the car and we were off to the big city and our little island in the middle of it to our apartment. As I mentioned in a previous post he helped bring our bags up, stood in the foyer to say goodbye and exchange the usual niceties when he said, “We are family now.” Tell me, how can anyone not love that kind of spirit?

He picked us up later in the day to take us to have passport photos taken (the government really likes you to spend money on photos to put on every form you will ever fill out here) and escorted us into the shop so he could explain what we needed. He then took us to the grocery store. He dropped us off and we did our thing while he did his driver thing (I have no idea what that is). While we were checking out he came to the exit to help us with the cart. Now Anders is certainly capable of doing that but he was right there waiting for us. When we got in the car American music was playing. He went into the store and bought a CD so we could have something in English! My heart melted just a bit more.

On Wednesday I ventured out into  GZ to go to the bank and buy a power source for my laptop. We picked up Anders’ admin and she accompanied me to the bank to help my activate my ATM card and exchange and then deposit American money. I will write about her at a later date because she too is phenomenal . After the bank I explained to her what I needed for my laptop, I didn’t do a very good job I guess because I got something other than what I expected but it works.  She explained it to Ben, we dropped her off at the office, and Ben and I were off to a DIY store for a multi-socket travel adaptor. Along the way we chatted a bit. Ben speaks fairly good English but  sometimes his accent is a bit difficult to understand. When we pulled up in front of the B&Q, think of a British Home Depot, I thought I was in trouble because I just wanted a cord with a Chinese plug on the end of it and I kind of thought we’d go to a computer store in a mall. Anyway, he went in with me to help me out and we stood in the aisle discussing what would be best and what wouldn’t work and why I didn’t want to spend a lot of money because it was a temporary fix until our sea shipment arrived and I had… a moment. I was just looking at him standing there pondering our choices and trying so hard to make sure I got what I needed while standing in a store surrounded by Chinese people, mostly women who all smiled as we walked by and I thought that I was quite possibly one of the luckiest people in the world. Ben did not need to come in with me nor did he need to help me make the best choice nor did he need to come to the checkout with me to make sure that he was there to help if I needed it but he did.  He could have easily sat in the car and waited. I had practiced how to say “Do you speak English?” in Mandarin. I’m sure the answer would have been no but I can guarantee I would have been awarded with a little bow and smile for my effort. I also would have figured out what I was looking for eventually but he wanted to help.

Two people will make or break your stay in China and they are your driver and your spouse’s admin. We have been blessed. If we had hand-picked them ourselves we couldn’t have done better.

Oh yeah, Ben and his wife are expecting their first and only child at the end of August! He’s so excited. I will keep you posted. (no pun intended – hah!)

9:00 AM – 90 degrees


About vikarenously

I am an ex-pat living in Guangzhou, China. I am married to the man of my dreams who has indulged my love of travel by working hard enough to snag two international assignments. Oh yes, I also have two amazing children who accompanied us on our first one to Switzerland and are now mature and responsible adults which makes it so easy for us to experience this adventure as empty-nesters. Experience it vicariously with Karen.

10 responses »

    • Oh Mary Lou I’m so excited that you found it, I didn’t expect that. I have to say that it has been way more fun than I ever thought. It’s a learning process that’s for sure. There are so many friends and family members that wanted to know what it was going to be like for us and this is just faster and easier than email and FB. It is also a great journal for me to look back on. I wish I had done one in Switzerland. Well enjoy and I’m glad to know that you like it. You know you have an open invitation. I bet a semester in China would be quite an education for your human rights courses.

    • I can’t wait for you to meet him because that means you’ll be here!!!! BTW, do you remember the bead market I told you Fahza went to a few weeks ago with Terry and Delores? He told me that it’s 6 stories high! He said they have everything from plastic to semi-precious. Prepare yourself and your suitcase. Fortunately beads don’t take up much room.

      • I think that this weekend we’ll hit a market or two. Not sure if I want to go to the bead, pearl, leather, jade, or fabric market but we’ll probably make a day of it. Ben will love the overtime 🙂 I’ll scope out the bead market before you get her, no doubt. I’ll take photos as well.

  1. Karen, Why is Ben called “Ben”? Either I read your post way too fast or you forgot to add that part. I enjoyed you describing him. A six foot Chinese man… I had no idea. Thank goodness for your travels so you can educate me. O.k. the part about him buying an English version CD almost made me cry. I love him!!!!! (Obviously, it was his wife who suggested such a sweet thing for him to do.) Although it truly doesn’t matter, I am interested in what kind of music he purchased. Can’t wait to hear who is popular in China! Can we even do that in America? Can I go to, say, Gallery of Sound (that is for all the old Dallas residents) or Best Buy and even get a Chinese music pop star CD? ….. I really need to get out more. Their baby is due soon! I’m sure you called your connections at Humphrey’s to help with that fun gift! So are you and Anders his only clients? Do you have to give him a schedule of your plans ahead of time or do you just call his cell phone when you need him? I have really been wondering about your furniture. Wasn’t it due to arrive the day you did? Monday? What is your address? I want to send you mail and see how long it takes to arrive. You probably can’t “write” out the characters with your computer though. How does that work? Still not done with questions- Anders has an “admin”? What is that? And who gets one of those? Foreigners only? What is her name? Does Ben take Anders to work? When does the temperature cool down? How cold does it get? Did you have any clothes made yet for yourself? I’ll give you a break and stop for now.
    P.S. Ripken was in such a good mood yesterday, Emily and I decided to take him shopping. He loves to “shop” at Petco. So I did get showered and dressed. Although it wasn’t the best experience of all time. Poor Rippy has been eating a lot of rich snack foods (for dogs) so sometimes he has diarrhea from them. We took 3 steps into the store and he squats and poops. I am squealing and Emily is sitting in the van. I get it all cleaned up and he tries to squat again so I run as fast as I could out of Petco. As soon as we get outside……in front of the van… Rip has to finish. Emily sees us and now swears she will never go anywhere near that area again! She is mortified. I clean that up – which isn’t easy because of its consistency (hopefully it rained) and realize the closest garbage can is in front of Target. So we drive with “it” over to Target and dispose it properly. And THAT’S what I dressed and showered for! P.S.S. Your Lily story was very funny. Hopefully she will adjust soon.

    • Again, you started my day off with a laugh. I am going to write you a snail mail letter to asnwer all of your questions. I think it’s a good experiment and I’ll send you some labels that Anders’ admin (that’s secretary to you and me) made with English and CHinese characters on them. Now I will not go to the Post Office myself, that is an errand that Ben will gladly run for me. Yes that is correct, Ben will do that for me. You are probably asking why I would let him do that for me and miss on this Chinese experience but I have heard it’s not fun. I don’t know it it’s because it would probably take 2 hours to get it mailed or if they’re terribly disorganized or rude or what, but I’ve been told to let my driver do that on the rare occasion I actually use the Chinese Post.

      BTW, I had a different post planned for yesterday but I decided to write about Ben based on your response. I thought people would like to know about him. He is such an important part of our life here. I believe that your responses will be catalysts to a lot of my future posts so you keep those questions coming. I’m still shaking my head at how you never fail to AMUSE me. Have a good weekend.

  2. “We are familly now” means “I will be moving my extended family in with you shortly.” Or maybe I’m getting mixed up with the Morrocans…. Love your posts! Thanks for sharing your adventures! Big hug and kiss to you and Anders.

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