Important lesson I learned in China: Prepare as much as possible before heading out on the street. But when things go wrong, because of not preparing enough or bad luck, just go with it. To illustrate this lesson: Story Time!
July 16, 2012
My twin brother, Aaron, and I were heading from Zhangjiajie to Luoyang (the city I had been teaching English at for the last four or five months).
We thought we were pretty well prepared. We had been traveling by train around China for the last couple weeks without any help from tour guides. We were heading to a city I knew really well, so I felt confident that things would be fine. I even had a friend who was going to pick us up when we got to Luoyang.
Our tickets indicated that we were leaving Zhangjiajie and would be arriving at Guan Lin: the one train station in Luoyang I wasn’t familiar with. I figured it would probably be somewhere in the middle of the city like the other ones. Red Flag #1
I had the thought that I should probably put some more money on my pay-as-you-go-cell phone. But I remembered my brother had a cell phone too. We would be fine. Red Flag #2
Aaron said he was running low on money and thought we should hit up the ATM before we got on the train. I was running low on money too but I figured we could travel cheap via bus or stop by an ATM at the train station. Red Flag #3
What basically ended up happening was we arrived at the train station around midnight and discovered it was located in the outskirts of town where new construction was being done everywhere. It was a very small train station without an ATM. There was also only one taxi and one van to give people rides, a stark contrast to the normal droves of taxis fighting to pick up anyone getting off of the trains. The taxi driver didn’t know where we were trying to go, and didn’t want to deal with giving a ride to two Americans who clearly didn’t speak very much Chinese. The driver of the van said she would try to get us to where we needed to go, but she wanted 40 yuan (which was roughly four and a half American dollars). With our money combined we only had a little over Y20.
It’s okay though, I had my friend that I could give a call to. Psych! My phone didn’t have enough money on it to make a call. Good thing my brother had a phone too. Double psych! He lost his somewhere between the Zhangjiajie hostel and the Luoyang train station. I had enough money on my phone to send a few texts to her. Later I would find out she fell asleep and didn’t hear the text alerts.
We didn’t have enough money for a ride, we didn’t have any way of contacting anyone, and we only had a vague idea of our destination. This may have seemed like the perfect time to panic. But that would have been one of the worst things to do. Instead we figured we’d just go with the flow. We put our backpacks on and started walking down an empty streets in the direction we thought we should go.
End result: We walked for about an hour before a lone taxi passing by stopped and offered us a ride. He knew the place we were trying to get to and he only charged us Y16 or Y18 for the trip. We didn’t die, get robbed, or end up sleeping on the sidewalk. Things usually work out if you just have a good attitude and go with the flow.