I’m currently in Shanghai, China, preparing for a trip to Ningxia, a place that is famous for producing some of the finest goji berries on the planet. Before I go there I want to tell you about a new discovery I came up with in Shanghai.
If you’ve ever visited this city you probably know what it’s like to be accosted by beggars, mooches and con-men. As I walk through the shopping district every twenty steps or so, someone comes up to me and says, “Want to buy watch? Rolex? Handbag?” Typically I respond in Chinese, saying, “Bu Yao.” This means I don’t want it. When I say this phrase it is not uncommon for the person to continue following me for another 50 feet or so. Finally, after raising my voice and making the facial expression of anger the person will leave me alone.
The other day, one of the most grotesque things I have ever witnessed happened to me and it changed my life. A mother who works the streets around the hotels with her 5 or 6 year-old son, came up to me with her little plastic container and began begging. Often times, depending on my read of the situation, I will give these people money. Sometimes the person begging has only one leg. Or he is deformed in some way and it’s obvious to me it would be very difficult for him in China to find a well-paying job. But most of the beggars with 5 and 6 year-old children don’t need a donation. They need a real job.
Anyway, as this lady kept nudging me to give money – and she used those words – “give me money,” her son who was eating came up to me and began to join her. Together they were singing one hell of a duet. Then I looked at the boy and nearly vomited. Why? Because as he was moaning for money he had a mouthful of chewed food hanging on the outside of his mouth covering half his chin. At this point I didn’t walk away, I ran. Once I crossed the street I bent over some bushes and nearly puked. Thankfully, it was a dry heave. I then walk ten more steps and had to bend over once again. Another dry heave. I then mentally adjusted the picture I had in my mind of this young boy and the dry heaves immediately stopped. At this point I decided to come up with something new that would put an end to all this begging and mooching.
The next day, where I went for a walk in the shopping district, I surprised myself. When I was accosted to buy watches and handbags instead of saying “Bu Yao” in Chinese, or “No” in English, I said “Wakarimasen.” This is Japanese for I don’t understand. To my delight and shock, the man stopped talking to me, turned around and walked away. 15 seconds later another person approached wanting me to buy some pirated computer software. I said: “Wakarimasen.” He immediately stopped talking, turned and walked away. At this point I said to myself, “Furey, make a note. This is a great technique.” So if you don’t know Japanese yet, just say this phrase when you visit China and it will eliminate 99% of this annoyance.
The true moral of today’s message is – you can always find a way to transcend a circumstance. Either with a change in words or a change in mental images.
Zen Master of the Internet®