I couldn’t have had better luck! In planning this adventure, the weakest link was landfall in China. How would I make myself understood standing outside the immigration gate at Xiamen Container Port? How would I ever get to the train station, book tickets, and make my way to Shanghai?
Yang Dong Feng, the Container Company’s Port Agent, became my guardian angel and friend. When I explained to him that I needed to get to the train station, he volunteered to take me and to serve as my translator.
The station was mobbed, the day humid, and the temperature oppressively hot. There were hundreds of signs, but none in English. Even Arabic numbers were few and far between. Mr. Yang helped me with my baggage, stood on line, and bought my ticket for Shanghai.
The only rub was that the next available train didn’t leave until nearly midnight and it was then just past noon. At this juncture, Mr Yang asked ‘Where will you wait? Do you have a friend in Xiamen?’
I answered, ‘I guess I’ll have to camp out right here at the terminal,’ anticipating a long. uncomfortable day followed by an overnight train trip.
‘Come home with me and have lunch’ was Yang’s reply.’ I demurred, but he persisted saying the food at the station wasn’t good and I’d go hungry. Ultimately, I accepted and away we went. I met Mrs Yang, both his young children, and his smiling mother-in-law. They made me lunch and dinner, gave me a television to watch (nature shows, some in English from America), and the whole family took me to the train station at 22:00 hours. As their car pulled away, all the Yangs waived and clapped. I have friends in China!
On the bullet train I met another English speaker, a young teacher and her husband. We chatted briefly, but it was after midnight and I was tired. As I drifted off to sleep, I said a prayer of thanks for the Yangs who showed loving-kindness to a stranger at their door.
Flying through the night at 300 kph, I dreamed my way to Shanghai, gateway to the Perfume Empire.