One of China’s top tourist destination, the Li River cruise departs from Guilin and arrives three hours later in beautiful Yangshuo. It was sweltering hot but the breathtaking scenery made up for the fatigue caused by the heat. After Beijing and Shanghai, two impressive metropolises, we welcomed the tranquility. Yangshuo is a picturesque village, sheltered by the dazzling karst peaks and bordered by the winding Li River, the Chinese landscape that had inhabited my dreams for years. We decided not to join our group so we could explore the village on our own. The center of the village has two main streets with quaint shops, markets, restaurant and bars. All of a sudden, I feel a small hand tapping my shoulder. It was a teenager. “Can you join us later this afternoon?”, asks the boy with a broad smile in his face. “We are inviting you to our weekly English conversation party”. He was accompanied by other teenagers, equally friendly and smiling. I said: “So you guys are meeting later to practice your spoken English? Cool! But we will be going back to Guilin at 6pm, I’m afraid. Thanks for the friendly invitation, anyway.” Then, their teacher who also appeared to be a teenager introduced herself and talked about the English school. She gave me her business card (the one I’m holding in my hand in the photo). She asked me if I knew anyone who could practice English with them once a week. The school would provide this person with accommodation and courses on Chinese culture in exchange. This is in fact what the school card promises. I explained to her that, like herself, I taught ESL for many years. We exchanged more smiles and she asked me to pose for a picture with them. She later emailed me the picture.
We continued walking leisurely around the delightful village and decided to have a foot massage which was phenomenal. Two hours later, back in the colorful vibrant streets, I am approached by a little Chinese girl, probably 4 or 5 years old. She handed me an invite for her birthday party. Her mom held her by the hand. I read the invite (written in Chinese and English) and the mom tells me in broken English that they were choosing some people in the streets to go to her daughter’s birthday party the following day. God knows why I was one of the people they chose! The girl was adorable and since I didn’t know whether it was proper or not to hug her, I just knelt down to be in her height and said “Sie-sie. Thank you, sweetie, but unfortunately I won’t be here tomorrow. I hope you have a great party!” The mother asked my husband to take a picture of us. We all posed, smiling. I thought it was my husband’s camera but it belonged to the girl’s mom. Well, at least I stored the picture in my mind.