Published September 20th, 2006 by Mliesie

The Mr Qin story

A while ago I promised you a story of one of the Chinese buddies, who joined us in Beijing, Mr Qin. He is a middle school teacher and has been working with a VSO-INSETT volunteer (Colin) for quite a while now. He is so enthusiastic about it, that he wants to be a volunteer himself!!! ….

Enjoy the (true) story, written by Colin, about the day of their departure when Mr Qingwas lost and had to catch a train together with Colin. Have fun reading it and do appreciate the cultural differences…

Carole was right. That Monday night could become a potential case study for
VSO. There were some interesting cultural differences which resulted in the
“very exciting evening which was just like a movie”, as Mr Qing described
So here goes with what happened…Mr Qin came to watch me swim in the pool after the session on Chinese Middle
schools. On the way we talked about swimming. He said the only time he had
been in the water was when the rowing boat he was in turned over in a
boating lake. He found this great fun even though he got his new birthday
shoes wet… when we got to the pool Mr Qin saw me off into the changing
rooms and said he would go up to the balcony and wait for me . He said I
could swim for as long as I wanted.

During my swim I looked up periodiclly to see if I could see Mr Qin. As I
couldn’t I assumed he went off for a walk which most people would do when
they get bored of watching or not doing much. By the time I got out I had
been in the water for a good 80 minutes or so. I couldn’t see Mr Qing
waiting either.

When he hadn’t turned up to dinner by 6:15 I began to wonder where he had
got to. I was reassured that Adam had also mentioned dinner at 6 and the
chance of a group photo - something he wouldn’t want to pass up on. I went
to 603 to see if he was there… I went to the pool to see if he was still
waiting. Nothing. Time went on and we began to get a little concerned.Had he
got lost? Had he defected?

We set up Mr Qin watch down in the lobby. Everyone ready to pin him to the
ground if he made a move for it. We phoned him but his phone was off. At
7:20 (more than 2 1/2 hours after going into the pool) I went back to check
at the pool again. This was the only place I thought he could have been.

With Tilly and Adam helping me with both Mr Qin’s and my luggage I jumped
into a taxi at about 7:40. I would love to say that we sped off to the West
Station but the traffic was thick. We crawled. Fortunately one hour later we
got to the station. I had 20 minutes to spare. I had to leave through
departure gate number 13 (no joke) which also happened to be the furthest
gate from where the taxis drop you off.

Slightly panicked by the thought of Mr Qin lost  in Beijing I lugged all the
bags onto the train and bruised about 20 people in the process. Out of
nowhere jumped Mr Qin saying “let me help you let me help”.

So wht had happened. We sat down and laughed long and loud as we disected
the “exciting evening”.

My assumptions were…
1. Mr Qin had left the pool as I had been there twice
2. He would turn up to dinner especially after Adam said something about a
group photo
3. People have a limited capacity to wait when doing nothing so it seemed
normal for him to wander off - especially as we were friends

For Mr Qin…
1. He had never been to a pool before. He knew that I was excited to go for
a swim especially as there are none in “our Xifeng”. His idea was that I
would want to spend a lot of time in the water. He had no idea that people
don’t usually swim for more than an hour and a half.
2. Although he knew about dinner, he had made a promise to wait. He said
that it was his duty to do so because he said he would.
3. He told me that he was prepared to wait until 21:03 (the time our train
left) because he said I would and that my happiness came first!

It seems that honouring his promise and carrying out his duty was more
important than feeding himself and the joy of a group photo. He told me that
his only thought was to wait. I asked how many other chinese people would
have done the same. He said “Of ten people maybe seven would have waited”.
When he told me this I was reminded of a four hour meeting which should have
taken 40 minutes in the West, where silently the participants sat while I
grew more and more frustrated wondering when the hell it would end. I was
reminded of the hours of classes the school kids sit through quietly and
without moving. Back home they would have rebelled or caused discipline

So where was he all that time? He was at the pool carrying out his duty.
There were two points where he left his position. Once to spit outside and
the other to go to the loo. We must have just missed each other. The only
reason he left was because he struck up a conversation with the changing
room attendant who told him a big nose, blond haired laowai had left hours

Mr Qin laughed when I told him that my my taxi ride took 1 hour and cost 50
kuai whereas for him it took 27 minutes and cost 32 kuai because he
explained the whole situation and that foreigner was in “trouble”. He said
“my taxi is like my lessons. I tell the students to do less and they get
better results. your taxi is like other teacher’s lessons ”

Enjoy your experiences and keep in touch.

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