Beijing, China

I inserted the 20 yuan bill in the ticket machine.  Instead of seeing a ticket card, the same bill came out again.  I got a different yuan bill and the same thing happened.  I kept doing it over and over again for more than five minutes until I gave up.  I didn’t care if there were people lining up.  I actually wanted them to notice me or at least the person standing behind me. Finally, I gave up and took just two steps away from the ticket machine.  And then one of the best things happened.  A long-haired young woman wearing a black overall jumper dress stood beside me and kept pointing to the 10 yuan bill sign while saying something which I completely didn’t understand.  She had a reprimanding tone, but I didn’t mind it at all.  After a day of staying in China, I kind of noticed that it’s just the way people there speak.  I understood her gesture, so I got a 10 yuan note and inserted it in the ticket machine.  Just after a few seconds, I successfully purchased a ticket card on my own.

I arrived at the Beijing Capital International Airport the previous day.  It was past midnight when the plane landed.  I didn’t expect that I’d travel to China alone considering the political tensions brought about by territorial disputes between China and my country.  I was even hesitant to go on this trip even after I already bought my ticket. But I have a goal.  And traveling to China is part of it. So I was off to Beijing!

On the day of my arrival, I decided to go to Tiananmen Square.  There were a lot of people lining up in the ticket counter, so I tried out the machine.  However, the machine just kept on spitting the money. I turned around and smiled at the woman standing behind me.  I raised the yuan note, pointed to the machine and asked the lady “How?”I was hoping she’d get it.  But she just smiled blankly and moved her head sideways.  I was frustrated. How could she not get it? I was sure she had seen I was having trouble. I stepped aside. Then she purchased her own ticket.  I tried again and did exactly the same thing the woman did. But I was again unsuccessful. I approached the lady guard who was just standing a few steps away.  I asked for help using the same gestures that I did with the woman. She just looked at me, turned around and talked to the lady guard beside her. I was even frustrated then.  But no.  I had four days more in this country and I wanted to learn how to purchase the ticket card on my own.  So I stood in front of the ticket machine again and tried several times.  I stopped when someone tapped my back.  It was the lady guard.  She pointed to the ticket counter. I knew about the ticket counter, but I wanted to use the ticket machine. Eventually, I just gave up and headed to the counter.

There was another incident when I asked help in the subway but all I got was a sideways movement of the head.  I’ve been to other non-English speaking countries in East Asia and I’ve never really faced any language barrier with those countries.  I was frustrated because I kind of think that when I asked for help from the locals, they focused so much on the language that I used and not on my gestures. In some countries, I had no problem relying on gestures so I somehow could not get why the people I approached in the subway couldn’t.

I was at that point when I didn’t believe asking someone would gain me the help I needed.  I was ecstatic when the young woman in the subway approached me and pointed out to me what I did wrong, why the machine was spitting out my money.  Just when I’d lost hope, someone was out to save the day.


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