We both leaned in toward his computer screen as he zoomed around Macau on Google Maps.
"So you'll turn here, at the red store." He pointed. "Here, I'll write that name down."
"You don't have—" I began to say, but he was already looking for a pen.
His daughter, still in diapers, came over again. She liked showing me her mom's keys. I'd reach for them, and she'd squeal with laughter, toddling away.
I turned back to my eggs over rice, chuckling.
All this, and I'd just wanted some lunch.
Unable to check into my hotel yet, I'd set off for food. The hotel's receptionist had promised a vegetarian restaurant nearby, but I hadn't found it. All I had done was attract stares for taking pictures of the alleyways that did not have any restaurants at all.
Why photos of random alleyways? Because they're unique — all part of why I'd chosen Macau for this quick trip.
An autonomous region of China, just across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong, Macau was a Portuguese territory until 1999. Now under China's watchful eye, it is a blend of the two cultures. You could smell the incense from a nearby Chinese temple as you gaped at ruins of a Catholic cathedral.
The languages swirled around with diversity, too. Portuguese was here and there, but Cantonese was dominant. Plenty of folk knew English — this is the "Las Vegas of Asia," after all, with a strip of casinos near the harbor. The problem was, I never knew who would speak what.
All week, I had been on edge. I hadn't been traveling by myself since Manfriend came along.
Ultimately, I was just scared to have to rely only on myself again.
There hadn't been any reason to worry, though.
Everyone was eager to help. In fact, I'd only eaten at the aforementioned restaurant because the owner had seen me struggling with the menu outside.
"Did you want lunch?" When I asked about her vegetarian options, she said they could make something special. Later, her husband guided me, via maps, to other veggie eateries in the city.
I had fretted all week, just to enjoy a relaxing afternoon with my camera.
The next morning, though, I started to get a little anxious. I needed the bus for the airport, but nothing had come yet. In an impulsive move, I hailed a cab and told him where I was headed.
We were off, but he seemed flustered. I started to panic. Oh shit, was there more than one airport? Then, he handed me a phone.
It turns out, he had called his English-speaking colleague to confirm where I wanted to go. She and I sorted it out, and she passed it along. He relaxed, and so did I.
At the next light, he smiled and played games on his phone. I smiled, too. Why had I been so nervous? I could still handle this whole solo-travel thing and find plenty of help along the way.