A man of the people
Updated: 2013-07-01 17:51
By Han Bingbin (China Daily)
For more than 20 years Arie Boeve has been traveling around China and established his website of travel stories and photos. He says traveling is the best way to cultivate a respect for local people. Photos Provided to China Daily
After missing a luxury ferry due to a traffic delay, Boeve had to take a small and smelly boat on which local farmers travel to Wuhan to sell their agricultural products.
When they arrived at almost midnight, he says, a line of people carrying their baskets of fruits and other products already waited to board the boat for a two-day trip down to Wuhan. His partner walked up to the guard saying he was accompanied by a foreigner and they were given the privilege of boarding first, while the others had to wait for two or three hours.
Feeling guilty, Boeve decided to associate with these people whom he found to be "poor but happy". When a policeman on board warned him to keep his passport with him in case he encountered problems, Boeve refused.
People were so friendly, he says, that a 2-year-old girl called him "grandpa" and hugged him.
"Such a trip allowed me to get in touch with the ordinary people at that time. You're in the middle of these people. You have to walk through them. You have to sit beside them. You are part of them."
Based on his traveling experiences, Boeve has just finished a book, in Dutch, called Stories of Lao (old) Arie. Before translating it into English for possible publication, Boeve sent it to be read and corrected by his friend Marcel Vink, a Beijing-based Dutch reporter.
"The book is written through the eyes of a foreigner who loves China, which is probably also what the reader does. So he is more standing next to the reader, instead of above - what most professional writers would do," Vink says.
One of the primary purposes of writing this book, Boeve says, is to record all the smiling faces he has seen and how happiness has been such a rich source of energy for his life in China.
"When I am on my way to the subway and pass all the local people with their small business spread out on the street or on the bridge waiting for a buyer all day and still smiling and happy it makes my heart feel warm," he says.
"Another time I saw people passing by on the street who were happily singing. I felt so lucky to be part of the community, though the people are poor and have nothing, they still feel happy, its wonderful."