What can you do, what kind of reaction can you have, when suddenly faced with the very real prospect of being in a foreign country where you don't speak the language with no official documentation for being there, or any money? Everything's all right, now. But for a while there tonight, I stared that possibility in the face, and it was not pretty.
I came home from work planning to pack for my May Holiday trip - I am to leave for Shanghai Sunday night, tomorrow, after finishing work. My train ticket and my travel money were in my wallet, as well as my passport. As I was having a cup of tea with my roommates, our house phone rang. I answered, and was greeted with Chinese speech. "I don't speak Chinese," I said. The man on the phone laughed, and asked for me by my full name (in very good English). He said he was calling from the police station, and someone had found my wallet, which was in my bag the last time I had checked, before getting on a crowded bus. I am not sure if I was pickpocketed, or if I was just in a hurry getting out the bus change and didn't put the wallet back in securely enough.
They ended up bringing the wallet to my apartment. Everything was there except for the money, a hefty sum by local standards, but not even a tiny fraction as valuable as my American passport, my California drivers license, and my bank cards, both Chinese and American -- which were all thankfully there. I am so, so grateful right now. I honestly didn't expect the cash to be returned. Cash has no name. But the other things... Well, in lieu of a general go-to deity, I'll just thank St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. And the Jinan city police, and whoever it was that turned in my wallet with everything really important intact.
But, wow, wow, wow. That was the most frightening experience I've had so far in China. And now I am awake and still not packed when I should be long-packed and asleep, still shaking from the experience and fretting over my plans to travel long distances across this alien land alone. Someone keep a candle lit for me somewhere, won't you?