It's funny how we often feel somewhat lost and overwhelmed when we travel in China, not being able to read any sign or ask for directions. And how every single time this happens someone just goes a long way to help us.
We recently took the opportunity to travel to nearby Dongshanzhen area, a tiny village on the shores of lake Tai, South-West of Suzhou. It's a nice small village with clusters of tiny alleys meandering all around. Easy to get lost, but a nice getaway from the busy streets.
One morning we were on our way to a little coffee shop we found on our map. But just before we reached it our way was blocked by a guard and a (open) gate. Trying to speak with him through our translator app was of no use, he was ushering us away quite unfriendly.
A little perplexed we turned a corner, where we found ourselves at the entrance of a big park. A bit lost we wandered around the ticket booth, trying to understand if this was perhaps the way to our coffeeshop. I decided to "ask" the lady at the ticket box by showing her the coffee shop on my phone. What followed is so typical for Chinese people when faced with foreigners who do not speak Chinese.
First there is a slight sense of panic, followed by a lot of talking to colleagues calling out for others and soon a little crowd gathered. There is always one person who speaks a little English or at least has enough confidence to try and communicate. Before we know it, they have the coffeeshop owner on the phone and are talking rapidly. Next, they usher us friendly back towards the guard. We walk back, slightly hesitant how to face this guard again, when we see a girl coming down the road, waving to us from her scooter. Without a word of English she escorts us, past the gate, all the way to the little coffeeshop further down the road. She quickly goes back in to serve her guests whom she has left unattended to pick up two stranded foreigners.
And the coffee? Amazing.