A trip to China this past summer created a whole new definition of the word “lost” for me. I have been lost plenty of times in Columbus, Ohio, but let me tell you: It is not the same. My biggest fear before leaving for China with my dad and brother was that we would have no idea what we were doing or where we were going because none of us speak any Chinese. My dad assured me that we would be okay, and for the most part there were students and professors helping us get around in the various cities we visited. After spending a week in Beijing I was comfortable with the situation, but that changed on our first night in Shanghai.
Completely by chance, an American Chinese friend of mine, Jackie, happened to be in Shanghai at the same time as me for one overlapping night. I could not pass up the chance to hang out with her in another country and so we corresponded through email to make sure it would be possible. The way that non-Chinese speaking visitors use taxis is by having hotel receptionists write down the destination in Chinese to give to the driver. I was staying at the Donghu Hotel and the plan was for me to take a taxi over to the Swissotel Grand Shanghai where Jackie was staying. As the receptionist wrote down the address on a card, one of the doormen called for a taxi and I was rushed out into the taxi.
This was my first time going out in China on my own. I was really nervous but I had a cell phone and money so I knew that nothing could go too wrong. I handed the driver the card and we were on our way. When the taxi finally came to a stop I looked around and there was no hotel in sight. I tried to ask the driver which direction to go but it was too hard with the language barrier and I decided to just get out. The first thing I did was show the card to a random couple and they pointed me in the right direction with no hesitation. The street led me into a small, crowded shopping area. After asking several other people for directions I realized that I was walking in circles.
I tried calling Jackie but I got no response so I called my dad who told me that he would come find me if I felt it was necessary. Right as I was about to give up, I found a hotel and asked the doorman if it was the Swissotel. He shook his head and sent me to the receptionist. I gave Jackie’s name to the woman and she gave me a room number. A worker met me at the room and gave me a key. They thought I was a customer. I called my dad again and through a very long process he was able to meet me at the hotel.
By this time Jackie had called me back and her Chinese tour guide offered to give the taxi driver directions to the hotel. I found out that the first driver had taken me to the Yu Yuan Garden instead of the Swissotel on Yu Yuan Road. In a country where you do not know the language, a mistake as small as that can leave you wandering in a foreign city for hours. When I finally met up with Jackie I sure had a story to share.
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