Lost Man in Hangzhou迷失下沙

A Xi­asha Story

That's China - - Contents - Text by / Hannah Lund

I’m pretty de­cent at ask­ing for di­rec­tions in Hangzhou. I know this, be­cause ev­ery time I try to get some­where, I get hor­ri­bly lost and end up scroung­ing for di­rec­tions like a beg­gar. I’ve had lots of prac­tice let’s say. There’s no point check­ing maps, be­cause, sooner or later, I’ll be so far off the beaten track that even Robert Frost would raise his eye­brows.

I’m pretty de­cent at ask­ing for di­rec­tions in Hangzhou. I know this, be­cause ev­ery time I try to get some­where, I get hor­ri­bly lost and end up scroung­ing for di­rec­tions like a beg­gar. I’ve had lots of prac­tice let’s say. There’s no point check­ing maps, be­cause, sooner or later, I’ll be so far off the beaten track that even Robert Frost would raise his eye­brows.

So I’ve learned how to say that I don’t know where I am. What I don’t know, how­ever, is what I’m sup­posed to say when the ta­bles are turned, like they were a while back with the lost man in Hangzhou. I was walk­ing along the streets of Xi­asha (the dis­trict of Hangzhou I live in) to ad­mire the au­tumn colours be­fore win­ter snatched them away. I must have been pretty en­grossed, be­cause I didn’t re­al­ize it when a Chi­nese man came up to me. I can­not stress enough how of­ten I get lost and how of­ten I’m like a hu­man pin­ball, bounc­ing be­tween Chi­nese peo­ple to find the way to wher­ever I’m go­ing. So, you can un­der­stand that when he asked me (in Chi­nese!) how to get to Num­ber Two Street, I was more than a lit­tle sur­prised. Af­ter check­ing be­hind me to make sure there wasn’t ac­tu­ally an­other Chi­nese per­son he was ask­ing in­stead of me, I con­cluded that he was ac­tu­ally talk­ing to me, the for­eigner.

Which meant he must have been pretty des­per­ate.

“Can you say that again?” I asked him.

“I’m try­ing to get to Num­ber Two Street.”

I searched along the street, as if the an­swer was go­ing to pop out of the gut­ter, un­til I re­mem­bered that, ac­tu­ally, we were al­ready on that street. (I only know this be­cause we were about 100 me­ters from the school I work in - the fact that it took me a cou­ple min­utes to re­al­ize this is a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing).

“You-uh, you found it!” I said, point­ing to the street sign that was across the road. He peered over at where I was point­ing and said that, yes I was right. Then he started to walk away. I could have just left him, but since I wasn’t used to the new role as The Helper, I asked him to wait.

“Where are you go­ing?” I asked.

He said some­thing I didn’t un­der­stand, and then pulled out his smart phone and pointed on the map to Gong­shang Uni­ver­sity, a uni­ver­sity which was about a 20 minute bus ride away from where we were stand­ing.

“That’s pretty far…” I said.

“That’s okay,” he said, con­tin­u­ing to walk down the road. Maybe he wanted me to just leave him alone, but I knew that he prob­a­bly wouldn’t get there for an­other hour. And I was de­ter­mined, ob­nox­ious or not, to be a de­cent place-fin­der. So I told him to wait again.

“Maybe you can take bus?” I said. He was car­ry­ing a small suit­case, and the thought of him wheel­ing it all the way along Num­ber Two Street (de­spite be­ing kind of cute) didn’t sound like the best way one could be spend­ing their after­noon. He looked at me funny just then, and said “But then I would get lost, right?” What could I say? He was prob­a­bly right. If I were in his shoes, I would have got­ten lost in a park­ing lot and ended up at my des­ti­na­tion the next day. So I just said goodbye, wished him luck, and went back to wan­der­ing around Xi­asha. Be­lieve it or not, this time I didn’t get lost.

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