…I had never:
Been able to step outside–at Heho Airport–and stand directly next to the runway while waiting for my plane to board. Especially with all the rules in China & U.S., this would never fly, no pun intended.
No boarding pass was shown before I stood out there. When our passes were checked it was in the midst of a moving crowd of folks, consuming the airport security official.
Not received a seat assignment for the plane. Choose any seat.
Seen a runway employee wearing flip flops.
Been allowed to keep bags on my lap during take off.
Been required to pass through immigration for a domestic flight, realizing soon thereafter that “required” is a relative term here. Most foreigners checked in, others just went straight through security.
Seen women as a majority of road construction workers, wearing traditional thanaka face paint & flip flops as they carried large rocks in woven satchels. Must be absolutely grueling. Black smoke burning around them from holes cut into metal barrels, where hot tar is mixed & heated by hand.
Been in a taxi in early morning as two dozen or more Buddhist monks in maroon robes and with shaved heads walked by barefoot in a single file line.
Seen a close up color photograph in local newspaper of a deceased man post-traffic accident.
Been able to hire a private taxi driver for over 2.5 hours for less than $4.
Paid .73 cents for 4 bowls of food at a roadside restaurant.
Tasted such wonderful foods from such decrepit looking environs, buildings seemingly crumbling down around me.
Had 3 rabbits run beneath my feet as I ate dinner within the most beautifully designed restaurant I have ever eaten within.
Walked through such impoverished surroundings where no one is asking for money. Services are offered–guiding, taxi, food, souvenirs,–but just getting money is not requested.
One does not feel hustled or scammed. Probably because this is not happening here.
I have never been in such a shockingly economically poor country exploding with generosity and kindness.