I sat in the taxi looking out the window but not paying attention to anything outside. In China you sit in the front seat next to the driver rather than in the back like in America. This was one of the many things I had gotten used to over the last five months living here. The driver and I had stopped talking minutes after pulling out. We were going to the airport for my long awaited return home. It had been a rough final month in Xi'an, China. My debit card had been reported to my bank as stolen causing them to cancel it. So, for the last month, every time I needed cash, I had to call my bank to transfer my own money from my own account to a bank in Xi’an for a $15 Western Union fee. I was down to the dredges and relieved to be going home.
I looked reluctantly at the ticking taxi meter. It was going to be close. I had 200 Yuan in my wallet, the meter read 190, and we weren’t at the airport yet. As the number on the ticker continued to rise, I racked my mind as to how to handle the situation. More to myself than the driver, I said, “I only have 200 Yuan.” I was broke and worried. We were on the freeway, still miles from the airport and hitchhiking is illegal in China.
“Well what do you want me to do?!” He asked accusingly not hiding his anger. He wasn't hiding any concern. Subtlety isn't as prevalent in China as America.
I told him to keep going, I'd figure it out. I wondered if I had any money left in my backpack in the trunk. Every mile the driver glared questioningly my way. I assured him I had more money in the trunk that I couldn't get to. About 10 minutes later we pulled into the airport and I gave the man everything out of my wallet. We then went to the trunk together and I pulled out every pocket and opened every zipper. I rummaged together another 10 Yuan, 1 US Dollar, and 3 Euro. Doing the quick, rough calculation, I explained to him how much each was worth and guaranteed him that it was more than sufficient to cover my tab. Talking my word alone and my thanks, he left angrily. Looking back, he should have left me on the side of the highway when I told him I didn't have any money. I'm glad he didn't
I have been in a few situations like this where I was literally broke. Most of them happened in foreign countries. My level of stress was very high and I was forced to think creatively for how to make ends meet. Whether because I didn't have any income, any savings, or any access to my money, I have had to think outside the box to overcome situations that many would find impassable. These occasions prepared me for life on a stable income by teaching me how to do with less, do without, and to do with alternatives.