Too much hospitality creates hostility
Updated: 2013-07-09 06:14
By Lisa Carducci (China Daily)
Recently, I planned a trip to Tianjin hoping to see the changes after a decade. I thought to myself that I would take the opportunity to visit my old friends there, a couple of retired doctors.
I told them: "I will arrive around 12:00 pm, spend the day with you, and stay overnight. The next morning, I will leave your home on my own." This was absolutely clear.
My plan was to visit Tianjin by myself, gather information and pictures aimed at writing an article, and return to Beijing by the fast train in only 28 minutes.
This new train is a pure wonder! Absolutely clean and comfortable, without radio or other noise pollution on board.
On arrival, I found my old friend waiting for me. Lunch was ready at home: Five delicious dishes artistically displayed, and red wine, though I said I preferred not to have wine with Chinese food, and especially at lunch.
In the afternoon, we went to the grandiose Zhou Enlai and Deng Yingchao Memorial, which was worth the visit. Willing to honor their guest, the couple offered me dinner in a good Jiangnan cuisine restaurant. We were back home by 7:30 pm, and got ready to watch two hours of the TV drama serial Orphan Zhao. At 10:30 pm - three hours before my ordinary schedule - I went to bed.
The next morning, breakfast was rushed; my hosts said 8:00 am was fine to leave, as people were already at work.
I had mentioned I wanted to buy high quality da ma hua (friend twist of dough), a Tianjian delicacy. According to my plan, this was to be at the end of the day, just before going back to the railway station. But we took a bus heading to the old Wenhua Jie, a famous street which has become still more attractive than before.
My friend said, as a foreigner, I was a target for cheaters. I protested that after 22 years in China, and speaking Chinese, there was no danger. But he insisted, "I must take care of you!" At a moment I escaped from him and bought the 4-wheel suitcase which I longed for. I paid exactly 30 percent of the starting price. My friend said: "You are really talented at bargaining!" Still, it was not enough for him to let me go by myself .
When time came to go to Shipin Jie, a street specialized in food products, I would have gone on foot if I were alone. But the old man walked so slowly that we finally took a small electric transporter.
After I bought the da ma hua and some souvenirs, my friend said it was time to go to the train station otherwise I "would arrive too late in Beijing". But this was "my" day, I intended to visit the Italian-style town with its bridge ornate with golden sculptures, the ancient buildings of the French and the German areas, and observe the changes in the city after so long. All that had become impossible unless I could convince my bodyguard to return home and let me free to visit alone.
"I have visited at least 20 countries alone, even without speaking the language; I'm not afraid. Please, go back home and have a good rest." Nothing would do. "It's dangerous for you here. It's my responsibility to protect you," he replied.
Seeing that I would never win, I decided to give up. My friend didn't know how to go to the station. Again, I - the foreigner - enquired, and we took bus 634 to Tianjin Zhan. I begged him not to accompany me till there. Yet he insisted: "I will see you off after you get your ticket, not before."
I had secretly planned to buy an evening ticket, say goodbye to my clinging companion, and return alone in the city after his departure. But he followed each of my movements. Finally, I quit Tianjin at 11:50 am, and arrived in Beijing, frustrated and unhappy, 28 minutes later.
This is to say: Those who want to do too much for their friends may impose on them, hinder their plans, and become unpleasant. I also want to tell autonomous travelers, who are heading to a place as tourists, not to announce their visit to their friends, and above all, not to accept their hospitality.
This was the second time I went through such situation, but I swear there will never be a third one.
Contact the writer at email@example.com.
(China Daily USA 07/09/2013 page9)