When travelling, we often face surprising situations. During my time in China, unexpectedly, my friend was required to go back to her work. She was needed as a translator for a guest from a Belgian company. And somehow, I ended up pretending to be a businesswoman. For three days, I was following my friend and her CEO, a Belgian chemist, and a representative of the Hong Kong branch. I was obviously the sore thumb in this group of people.
But even though I was the uninvited guest, I enjoyed it thoroughly. My friend’s CEO treated me as an official guest and offered all the great things any struggling university student would wish for. Not only did I get to experience the daily and professional culture of China, but I also had the chance to visit remarkable monuments and places.
I have to say that everything that I experienced during the short period of three days was beautiful surprises and will forever be unforgettable memories. As guests, the CEO arranged for us to visit historical places such as the Shaolin Temple and the Longmen Grottoes as well as the Yellow River. Furthermore, we experienced a more artistic and cultural China by visiting both traditional and modern performances of dancing and singing. But the surprising part of the trip had the chance to visit a laboratory, a factory of car painting and lastly stay at a five-star hotel. Everything you wouldn’t expect to visit during your first vacation to China as a university student.
The hospitality that I experienced during those three days was tremendous, and everything that unexpectantly became part of my trip was welcoming. But there were two moments in these three days that will be encrypted into my mind forever.
The first memory was accompanying my friend to the factory of car painting at a smaller town that was right outside of the capital of the Henan province. Instead of going for the tour around the factory with them, I stayed in the common area alongside other workers. None of them could speak English. Still, with some broken Chinese that I learned from my friend, I was at least able to introduce myself and give them some basic information on where I am from and what I am doing there. Although I have no clue if they understood what I said, let’s just pretend they did. They were very curious in a positive way, and they all felt very welcoming. It felt awkward, but it was a good awkward.
The next fantastic memory that until now I absolutely love is a performance that I watched somewhere deep in the mountains of martial arts by both monks and nuns. The entire performance, although it was of martial arts, had a story of dance and movement. It was so beautiful and breath-taking. But I was more mesmerized by four monks who entered the stage at the very beginning. They took their positions at the very front and stayed at a sitting position mediating for the entire duration of the performance. Their stature of concentration made them look the most powerful of all the monks and nuns. It makes you realize that sometimes, being calm gives you a much more intimidating look rather when you go all out. Personally, I would never have been able to sit for hours in the same position and not move at all. I would feel frustrated, and my entire body would have been screaming in agony. Hence, why I found them the most mesmerizing of the performance.
Overall, thinking of the monks, the five-star hotel, and the workers at the factory, in three days, I had the chance to see three completely different images of China. Modesty, humbleness, and wealth. I can’t say I prefer one from another since all three have their unique attributes. I usually like to immerse myself in ordinary life rather than extraordinary. Therefore, I did love spending time with local people. Even though there was an obvious language barrier, we could still understand each other, and them sharing their free time with me meant a lot. As for the monk’s performance, it was a brilliant experience that I’ll probably never experience again, so I’ll share it forever.
These three days with my friend’s colleagues taught me always to expect the unexpected.