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