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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Body Language (11/25/10)

TITLE: The Gift
By Debbie Johnson


The Gift

I was lost in Beijing. I did not even know the name of my hotel. Near tears, I walked first one way, then another, trying to find the way back toward something familiar around crowds of Chinese in thick dark jackets with bowed shoulders who seemed to take no notice of the tall foreigner in a pink coat. My 30-word vocabulary was not enough, even the word “hotel” failed me. Or perhaps no one wanted to be seen with someone from the outside. Surrounded by millions of Chinese in the nation’s capital, I felt completely alone. Time passed. The cold penetrated my coat. Fear gripped me. I prayed.

Finally I stepped in the pathway of one more quickly moving Chinese, a young woman, and pled with my eyes. “Hotel,” I said, and showed her my hotel card while pointing this way and that, raising both hands in question. This time the dark jacket stopped. This time the burdened eyes looked into mine and I saw pity. She reached out her hand and took first my card, then my arm and motioning with the other, began ushering me back. With the comfort of that hand on my arm, the fear let me go and my tears began to fall.

It took a long time to walk back to the hotel. It was long enough for me to grow weary and worry about how far I had taken this gracious woman from her own responsibilities, long enough for me to wonder at her kindness as she pulled and pushed me silently around the crowds and down the streets with her hand.

When I finally saw the hotel, I stopped, sensing it might be dangerous for her to come with me further. Bowing slightly, with all the feeling I could offer I said, “Shi shi,” smiling my thanks down at her. Then pulling up the bag of oranges purchased before realizing I was lost, I placed them into her hands. She quickly pushed them back. I tried thrusting them back at her, the polite Chinese dance of giving several times before the other receives, knowing her family had little, longing to give her something back for her sacrifice. I asked her with my eyes and all my heart to take them. Holding her arms firmly on her sides, she shook her head and hurried into the dusk.

Perhaps it was not safe for her receive a present from me. After all, it was 1985. Spies were everywhere. But if I understood the message of her eyes, I caught a desire to help me without payback of any kind.

I walked the half-block back to the hotel, relieved, safe, and somehow shaken by one young woman’s selfless gift.

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This article has been read 236 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Yvonne Blake 12/02/10
Great story!
Yes, the verbal language barrier necessitates body language. I love how the touch of her hand was comforting. I could see the refusal to take the oranges.
Well done!
Rachel Phelps12/02/10
Your atmospheric descriptions are excellent. I had a bit of trouble connecting to the story - use some of the extra words to create more dimension for your characters. Good use of the topic.
Nancy Sullivan 12/02/10
You painted a strong picture with your characters and their determined communication. I enjoyed the story very much.
Mildred Sheldon12/03/10
I enjoyed this very much. I can relate to your MC. Body language speaks volumes if you just observe. Thank you for a touching story and very well written.
diana kay12/03/10
a great piece. very well written and original. People can relate to that "being lost and not knowing the language" situation but your descriptions of China are truly unique
Cheryl Harrison12/09/10
Congrats on your Highly Commended!