The kindness of strangers

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Busy street in China

In 2003 I had been living in Japan for 4 years, and I was thinking of learning the art of Acupuncture. I wanted to learn it in Japan, but before entering an acupuncture school in Tokyo, I decided to go to China to try the Chinese method of needling for two months and experience the differences.

I arrived in Shanghai by ferry in July and stayed a few days in the city before heading south to a small town where an acupuncture hospital had invited me for a 4 week mixture of acupuncture treatment (as first hand experience) and theoretical courses (in English) as well as hands-on training (on other students).

Shanghai was very different from Japan, to say the least. I felt somewhat intimidated by the behavior of people and by the sound of the Chinese language.

Two days after my arrival in Shanghai I took a city bus without really knowing how it works, and when I had to pay the bus driver, I showed him the coins I had but he was not happy. There was a long queue behind me and I didn’t understand what the driver was telling me in a grumpy voice.

Suddenly the stranger behind me stuck out her hand and handed the driver some coins. Then she spoke to me and pointed me towards the rear of the bus, to indicate that she had paid for me.

I tried to give her some of my money, but no! I said “Thank you!”, which was about the only phrase I could say in Chinese, but she didn’t want to hear any of it. Don’t mention it, her body language said, just be happy and move on. Very funny and heart warming.

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