Travel: Global Myths No 5

Another story from the travellers' grapevine
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The Independent Travel
A TRAVELLER, a British student returning to Beijing after a few months wandering round China, found himself virtually broke in a small town a few hundred miles short of the city. There was, however, a branch of the Bank of China and he decided to contact his long-suffering parents for enough money to see him through the last leg of his trip.

After wrestling for an hour with the archaic phone system, he managed to contact his dad and arranged to have the cash wired through for collection at the same place the following day.

He decided to spend a while wandering through the stalls of the nearby market. One stallholder, a wizened old woman, was selling kittens. To his horror, he saw that they were being offered as food. His heart went out to one particular little black-and-white creature, which was romping around its sawdust-covered box. The thought of such a sweet little creature being sold for food was almost too much for him to bear but in his cash- strapped state there was little he could do about it. And, anyway, he had still to find a hotel owner prepared to accommodate him on the promise of payment the following day.

He spent a terrible, sleepless night, wracked by thoughts of the little black-and- white kitten which, for all he knew had already been bought and popped into a stew by some heartless native.

The next morning, he returned to the bank, only to discover his cash would still not be ready for a few hours and returned to the market stall where - miracle of miracles - the little cat was still cavorting around in its box. After haggling, pleading and finally begging, he managed to convince the stallholder to let him buy it for the final few coins he had left.

The stallholder picked up the kitten, deftly snapped its neck and popped the dead animal into a plastic bag.

Maxton Walker

(with thanks to Ian Diddams)

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