Posted by: Lotus Light | June 9, 2010

Making friends

I spent the weekend in Tianshui.  First looking at the fascinating cliff carvings of Maiji Shan, trying to work out how many monks fell off the cliff during the construction, then visiting a couple of temples and museums.  At the Fuquan Daoist temple I met this monk.  I was a little slower than my companions – there are just so many photos that need taking!, and so they had all passed him by when I reached the top of the stairs.  I stopped and chatted.  He is from Liaoning and has lived in Tianshui for 40 years.  We enjoyed our chat, until I was called to join the others for more exploring.

The temple was lovely, and I took many, many photos as well as having my fortune told.  I will believe this fortune because it told me all good things. 🙂  On our way back to the bus, I was, again, a little slower – just one more photograph, please!!, and as I walked past his domain, he popped out to invite me to lunch next time I am in Tianshui.

This experience is not uncommon in China – IF you take the time to stop and chat with people. It is very easy to become so involved in what we are doing, rushing off to see the next temple hall, getting to the next ‘thing’ we have to do.  But here, if we slow down and take an interest, then people will open up to you.  They will chat (doesn’t matter how limited your Chinese is) and invite you to see their house, their garden, invite you to lunch or drink tea.

Could I have done it if I had stayed with my group?  No.  They weren’t interested in chatting to a monk, and he wouldn’t have approached us.  Travelling light can mean travelling alone or with only one other companion. Too many people around intimidates others, and loses you the chance to catch glimpses of other worlds. to do this, it is necessary to leave any fears and distrust behind.  I wouldn’t say not to be careful, but from the biggest city to the smallest, most remote village I have been invited into people’s homes and been given rare chances to make friends.  I trust that I am being offered hospitality and warmth, and so far, touch wood, that is exactly what I am given.

Being open to these experiences seems to me to be so important when you are in a different country.  Maybe I didn’t see every little corner of that temple – but I made a friend, learned about someone’s life and this makes that temple special for me now. 

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