Friday, February 02, 2007

Finding love on the road doesn't always mean romance and sex.

My first day in Xi'an China was coming to a close. I was getting a bit hungry and was low on cash. I went to the ATM machine to take out some money. The display told me I was out of luck. I tried 5 more machines and still no cash. I went back to my hotel room and called the bank. They said there was no problem on their end. Money was in my account, they had no idea why I couldn't get at it.

The next morning the hotel manager showed me some kindness. He called the hotel driver, who I had met the day before when I told him I would hire him to drive me to the terracotta warriors, and we went off into the city center.

For 3 hours the driver and hotel manager took me to every bank in the city. None could figure out why my card would not work and none would front me cash on a credit card. Back to the hotel we drove. I had just enough credit left on my card to cover the next two days in the hotel. With no cash and no credit I was looking to be in bad shape. Especially as I had a week left in China before my flight home.

The driver pulled me aside. He told me he would go back to his village and fetch me 6,000 RMB, about $800, to see me through the week. he told me I could mail it back to him when I got home.I insisted he should not do any such thing. He insisted he would do it at all costs. We parted. I walked round the city wall. As darkness approached I started walking back to the hotel.

On a lark I stuck my ATM card into a machine I had already tried 5 times.And then I began to here that beautiful click and whir. The machine was spitting out crisp, red 100RMB bills. My money was back.I nearly ran back to the hotel. Waiting for me in the lobby was the driver. He ran over to me with a big smile on his face and an envelope in his hand. He thrust the envelope into my hands and told me my problems were solved. I thanked him a thousand times. And then, through the hotel manager's translation, I explained to him that the machine had finally given me some money and that I didn't need his money.I asked him why he was willing to risk so much and to trust me in such a way.

He told me that I was a stranger in a strange place. That I was in trouble, that I needed help, that he trusted in my good heart and he hoped someone would do the same for him.The next morning he picked me up and drove me to the terracotta warriors, the sacred mountain and to the Ming-era baths. I paid him triple the original price we agreed on. We have kept in touch ever since and a real friendship was born out of his original kindness. What he did was treat another human being in the way he hoped he would be treated. That, in the end, is the true definition of love and it led to a longstanding friendship that to this day is imbued with trust, and love.