One Night in Beijing

I was scanning through my Facebook news feed while waiting on a coworker this morning and stumbled across a post that a friend shared. The post was from a woman who was delayed in the airport and heard a page over the system for anyone who could speak Arabic to please come to the counter. She arrived to find an older Palestinian woman on the floor crying, and the staff flabbergasted over the situation. She discovered the woman mistakenly thought her flight was cancelled, rather than delayed, and I’m sure was upset not knowing how to communicate or what to do over the situation. After learning the truth, she stopped crying and the two women began talking and making the best of their delay. The older woman offered cookies to her and other women in the area, who all took one. And, there in the airport, women of all skin tones and ethnicities enjoyed a moment together. I was struck by its simple beauty and reflected on my own travel tales and the moments of intense beauty you experience with others.

Eight years ago, I was exploring the city of Beijing with a friend, a city as different from our own culture as it could possibly be. My friend was quite tired one night and retired early, but I decided to go explore around the hotel, as I was pretty wired and not wanting sleep. I got no further than right outside the hotel where a bell boy, whose American name was Jack, stood outside to greet guests. Jack was a poor, young boy from an outer province who had moved to Beijing in hopes of finding a job and bettering his situation and his families’. He’d left a year earlier and had no way to get into contact with his family or his girlfriend since he left the village, and he was still too poor to afford a trip back to see them. It hit me so aggressively that I sat on the curb enjoying my graduation present from my parents, a trip to a foreign country, and this young man was experiencing such hardship.

Jack was very inquisitive and anxious to continue practicing his English with me. After about 30 minutes, another American in our travel group made his way downstairs and joined us on the curb. The three of us laughed together, learned from one another, and acted our way through the language barrier when needed, and it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life – sitting on a curb in the middle of Beijing, learning from those amazing experiences that traveling abroad grants you. We knew that we’d never see one another again, but in those few hours, 3 strangers and 2 cultures came together, a night that would stay with us forever.


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