Tale of kindness from angels of a snowstorm

13:49, January 06, 2010      

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Snow is falling softly and a beautiful winter wonderland is being created all around me. I wish I could go to West Lake to see the Broken Bridge covered in snow. But I know from past experience that here in Hangzhou, where we get snowfall infrequently, the roads will have become quite dangerous.

Instead, I'll sit here in my cozy apartment and let my mind drift to the Great Snowstorm of 2008. Day by day the news got worse for millions who were stranded at train and bus stations, trying to get home for the New Year. Drivers didn't dare try to drive in those conditions. Busses were skidding dangerously all over the place till services were canceled altogether. The snow continued to fall.

It was utterly beautiful, but caused so much grief to so many. All over the country, power lines were cut. Premier Wen Jiabao reached out in person to those who were stranded and suffering. He cared, and that meant a lot. Still, being stranded is being stranded and there seemed to be no relief for so many.

Meanwhile, I had booked a trip to Egypt and needed to get to Shanghai's airport. A friend, Grace Hu, insisted on picking me up to take me to the train station. I thought it was too much to ask, but she wouldn't take no for an answer. Good thing too, since there were no taxis running that morning. Her husband drove us through the nearly deserted, slippery white roads, very slowly and carefully. When we arrived at the station, my heart fell. I didn't have a ticket and there were hundreds hoping for one as well. Grace got me into the slow-moving line and then disappeared. En masse, we inched toward the ticket window. There was talk that all but one train had been cancelled. Suddenly, there was Grace waving a ticket at me! How did she do it? I shall never know, but I hopped on the train, blessing her every inch of the way.

I heard a friendly voice asking me where I was headed. I told him "Pudong airport".

"How will you get there?" he asked. "I'll take a taxi," I replied. There was a long pause. "Ummm, I don't think there will be many running in this weather," he said. "I'm taking my friends from Korea to the airport, would you like to join us?" And that's how I met Andrew Wang.

He shepherded us from the train to the underground MagLev and voila! - we were at the airport. We saw his Korean friends off and then had a bowl of warming noodles. It was time for my new friend and knight in warm, wooly clothes, to leave.

I had a long wait but it was made memorable by being asked to share a cup of coffee with two guys from Iran. The snow kept falling as we queried each other about our respective cultures. The once-in-50-years snowstorm left all of us with a story to tell. Mine is a tale of kindness and reaching out that got me on the plane to Egypt. It is also a tale of how friendships can begin. Grace continues to be helpful in so many ways; Andrew from Hangzhou and Nozhan from Iran, have become very dear to me. Andrew and I love to have a coffee together, and Nozhan and his family are frequent correspondents. I hope to visit them in Iran someday.

The snow is still falling and the temperature is dropping but I am snug in my little apartment, filled with the warm memories of that big, cold, snowstorm of '08 that brought me such kindness and good cheer, and new, meaningful, friendships. The view outside my window is magical. Viva la snowflake!

Source: China Daily
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