A few days ago, I went to buy a bike. Well I went to pick up my bike, from Puxi, which from where I’m living is not that close. I would call Puxi (浦西) the hub of Shanghai – I don’t how much Shanghai tries to build up Pudong (浦东) and make it so financially perfect that it starts bearing the creepy, dome-like and quiet resemblance of Singapore; Pudong is just not Puxi. That’s besides the point. Puxi isn’t close – that’s my point. Except everything you would ever need is in Puxi.
So here I am thinking that once I pick up my bike, I’m going to have to walk all the way home (because I brought my friend Chloe and 她没有自行车 (she doesn’t have a bike)). That doesn’t seem like that much fun for many reasons. Shanghai has extremely bipolar weather at the moment and is feeling like being negative fifty degrees everyday now. (I’m exaggerating, I’m so sorry – I’m from Australia so I don’t adjust to winter all that well). Also, I didn’t really feel like being run over in the tunnel on my brand new bike. There’s also the factor that if I do fall, there’s no one that’s going to help you up. China is a dog eat dog world.
So, Chloe and I are like “sure, we’ll fit in a cab with the bike”. And we stand around procrastinating with mantou (馒头) and spending kuai like there’s no tomorrow before we’re like okay, let’s get this thing home. After about three attempts with hailing cabs, this one cab drives up and is like yeah, why the hell not.
The first reason I totally loved this man was because, at home, I’d be riding that bike home or they’d charge me some crazy surcharge. This man was purely doing it out of pure kindness (and maybe the 40 kuai). The second reason I loved him was because of the rest of the cab ride.
After speaking a little Chinese to the man – simple stuff, like where we wanted to go – he started to talk back. At first, we’re a little hesitant, just because we’re tired and this man’s Chinese accent was pretty thick. So I said something in English to Chloe and he says to me, in the kindest way possible, “现在你们住在上海，你得说中文！” (You live in Shanghai now, you have to speak Chinese!). And in very little words, that taxi driver reminded me of why I was here. To become really ridiculously good at Chinese.
The rest of the cab, I didn’t say one word in English apart from a few translations, but we had a beautiful conversation about how he moved from Anhui (安徽) for work and has three children, one that was pretty close in age to us.
So to any of you struggling with Chinese, or even for those of you on the way to fluency – this man gave me some pretty great advice, and managed to squash my bike into his car. And also didn’t expect a tip. So think about what he said.