A cute little boy with a wide toothy grin approaches and sits down opposite me. He can't be any older than 12. "Ni hao," he says nodding in my direction. "Ni hao," I reply back. he immediately launches in and asks another question. I shrug my shoulders and smile to indicate my lack of comprehension. He persists. I try to play anlong with the few phrases I've picked up in the past couple of days. Within the next 20 seconds I've exhausted the extent of my Mandarin. I have to give the boy an A for his determination, but eventually he realizes that the conversation has reached a dead end. Soon he gets up and ambles back into the neighbouring car. I return my attention back to the scenery.
Ten minutes pass and the little boy is back, this time with and adult in tow. Again he sits down opposite me and smiles. The adult explains that the boy was looking for someone who knows English so that he could have a conversation with me. He sits down as well. The boy launches in with a deluge of questions. I sit patiently and wait for the translation so that I can respond. He listens intently, hanging on my every word. I am struck by his curiosity as I doubt that children back home would be so outgoing with an unknown adult and ask such poignant questions. And thus I pass the next hour in the company of these perfect strangers.