Making friends in the speed train!!!!

Shortly after seeing the Pandas, we were set to go to Chongqing, where we would then board a boat and set sail towards 三峡(The Three Gorges).  To go there, we would take a two hour train ride.  While I had taken several train rides before then, this one would become the most memorable since it is here where I would meet and befriend a local Chongqing girl.

Usually, when riding a train together to reach any destination, we tend to sit next to each other as a group. But, because we were down two people on this trip, one of us would be sitting next to a stranger and away from the Davidson group.  As luck would have it, it would be me.  When I took my seat, my ‘stranger’ had not yet arrived, yet I did not know how to feel.  For one, I was excited to meet a new Chinese local and have the opportunity to practice my Chinese.  On the other hand, what if the person did not want to talk, or what if my Chinese was so bad we would not be able to have a proper, long conversation?  I had no idea who would be sitting next to me but deep inside, I could not wait.

As the train was minutes from departing, she had yet to arrive which then made me think, was I going to experience this ride alone with no one to talk to?  But, just as that thought came to mind, a soft, kind voice came from behind and asked me a question.  Having not understood the entire question, I looked up and was about to ask if they could repeat the question when I saw a young girl around twenty years old smiling down at me and motioning with her eyes towards the window seat.  So, this 美女would be my travel companion?

Having taken her seat, she put her stuff down and thanked me for letting her through.  She then got on her phone and called her friend telling him/her that she was on the train and would be arriving in a couple of hours.  She then hung up laid her seat back, closed her eyes, and decided to nap for a bit.  Realizing that she wanted to sleep, I could not help but feel like I missed out on my only opportunity to talk to her.  Why had I not introduced myself from the get-go?  Was I nervous about how bad my Chinese would sound?  What was I so afraid of?  If I do not take the initiative and talk to her how else am I supposed to practice my Chinese?

Luckily, she did not nap for long.  In fact, she seemed uncomfortable and could not manage to fall asleep.  Also, I noticed that she kept looking at me with curious eyes.  Was she asking herself the same questions as me?  Was she looking for someone to practice her English with?  Was she curious to find out who I was?  Where I was from?  It was then that I decided to take the first step.  I asked her in a joking manner “你很累吗?” (Are you tired?) to which she then replied “我很困.” (I am very tired/exhausted).  From that point on, our conversation took off.  After introducing ourselves, she complimented me on my Chinese and was wondering what I was doing in China.  Telling her that I was a 留学生studying Chinese language and culture, she lit up and asked where I was from and how long I had been studying the language.  Being able to answer all of her questions, thus far, in pure Chinese, she was amazed at my ability to speak her language that she once again complimented me.  Knowing that my Chinese speaking level was too low to receive these kinds of compliments I insisted that my Chinese was not so good and I still needed to practice and learn a lot more.  It was then that she told me “如果你像练习一下,我可以帮你.“ (If you want to practice, I can help you.)  She then asked for my WeChat information and declared that I had just made a new Chinese friend.  In fact, she said something along the lines of “you can now tell you classmates you have a beautiful, outgoing, lively friend from Sichuan Province. You may call me 梁馨元 (Liang Xinyuan) or Shaine.”  Our conversation would not end until we had arrived at Chongqing where we went our separate ways.

That was the longest conversation I have ever had in Chinese thus far in my studying of the Chinese language!  I was amazed by how much I have learned throughout my two years of taking Chinese language classes and also by how much I had improved by just being exposed to the language every day in Shanghai!  We talked about what we each were studying, our interests, what we did in Chengdu, to what we want to do after graduating college.  If the train ride was longer I am sure our conversation would have continued.  Nonetheless, before we parted ways, I thanked Shaine for helping me practice my Chinese with her.  Even though our entire conversation was in Chinese, there were times were I had to have her explain new words to me of which she was extremely patient with me and very detailed.  To this day, we continue to talk through WeChat and she continues to help me improve with my Chinese proficiency.