On Sunday night I had a wonderful encounter that came about by the most mundane of circumstances: a ride on the London Underground.
During my internship in London this summer Tom and I went out for dinner in town one evening after work. After having a bit too much to drink we ambled down to the tube and arrived just in time to dash into a carriage as the doors were closing rather than waiting a whole two minutes for the next one -I’m told pretending to be in a hurry all the time is the done thing on London transport.
In the carriage Tom noticed a couple, one of whom was wearing a Warwick University hoodie so he decided to strike up a conversation. In the time it takes to travel two tube stops on the Northern line we chatted about Uni and life after Uni and briefly exchanged emails before parting ways – they were from Hong Kong and by that point I knew I was moving to Shenzhen.
About 2 months later, I received a message from them saying they were around and asked if I wanted to meet up for dinner. I thought OK cool, some dumplings, meat and veg in a local somewhere would be great. We loosely agreed a day and that was about it. On the day I received a call from them and we arranged a time and metro stop at which to meet. I went along and found them with a car and driver. As we drove all the way to the other side of the city I realised they had come to meet me there because that’s where I was, not because it was in any way convenient.
We pulled up to this lush place where the driver opened the door for me and helped onto the red carpet that led up to its entrance. It was the one place in Shenzhen I had actually heard of. It’s the one place all foreigners have heard of as it is one of two Shenzhen attractions. It wasn’t the designer bags so it had to be the spa. It was all lit up and inside there was glass so clean that it sparkled. We went into the lift and the doors opened to the restaurant. There were tanks with exotic sea creatures swimming around by the entrance and we were led to our table which was in a tastefully decorated private room at the back of the restaurant complete with own private restroom. We were greeted by the head Chef who discussed our food options with the couple (or at least that’s what I’m guessing they discussed since the conversation was in Cantonese). The director came in to chat with us for a while too as he was his father.
Then the food arrived and the spread was fantastic. There was sashimi, wasabi strong enough to blow your brains out, stir fried frog, noodles, veg, roast goose (which is a rarity) with a tasty sharp dipping sauce, sweet buns, tea, mango smoothies and Kung Fu Soup in cute individual teapots – it’s so named because of the slow and assiduous labour required to make this dish. This was a spread like no other. The kind you would reserve for a reunion with an old friend.
Despite having known each other for less than 10 minutes before hand, this couple treated me like an old friend. They explained to me that this is how it’s done in the East. Coming from a place where if you met a person on the tube again it would be by chance and you would exchange a knowing nod or an awkward ‘hello’ at most, I have to say I was really touched by this show of kindness. I think we in the West could learn a lot from the East.