Lost In Translation
“Mei wen ti”. The Chinese Pinyan expression does not ring a bell to you? How about, “Hakuna Matata?” You do not need to have had children to have heard this expression from the Disney classic, “The Lion King,” Pumba the wart hog sings, “it means no worries for the rest of your days, it’s our problem-free philosophy.”
“Mei wen ti” may not have the familiarity of Hakuna Matata, but it most certainly is the way of life that I strive every day to maintain. You may also have heard of the serenity prayer, and I am paraphrasing, “give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I keep coming back to “Mei wen ti.” Why? Because of all the challenges in life that I have faced, too many to list in this post, those three words, “Mei wen ti” changed my thinking and way of life forever.
I first heard “Mei wen ti” at a hotel in Hong Kong. I had just landed in Hong Kong to adopt my daughter, a blessing from China. I handed my credit card to the desk clerk to pay for my overnight stay. Before I left, I notified my bank, a small credit union, that I would be travelling overseas, so that they would not suspect anything with my credit card being used in China. And then I heard…
“It was declined,” said the clerk.
I told the clerk to try again. I knew it was working. I knew there was zero balance on when I left for the airport the day before.
“Sir, it is declined again.”
Beginning to panic, I urged the clerk to try again. There has to be a mistake.
Our guide for this part of the trip, Ben, came over to me, asking what was the matter.
I told Ben, that my credit card was being rejected and I had no idea why. I had only enough cash for some expenses during our two week trip, and still needed to pay for hotels and in country flights to finally meet my daughter. Impossible without that working credit card.
“Mei wen ti.”
I said, “excuse me?”
Ben repeated it. “Mei wen ti.”
Now completely baffled, as I do not speak Chinese, I shouted, “what the hell does that mean?”
Ben translated, “it means no worries.”
Oh my God. You have to be kidding. Does he not understand English? I hear him speak it. But I just got done explaining my problem, and all he can say is “don’t worry about it.”
Ben continued, “we are coming back to hotel in fourteen days. You take care of bill then. Mei wen ti.”
Ben really did not understand. I had no working credit card, and I was on the other side of the world. All he could do was tell me not to worry?
Later that morning, we took the flight to the province where my daughter lived. We met our guide for that part of the trip, De. I began to explain my problem, and only got as far as the beginning before he interrupted, “mei wen ti.”
What the hell is it with this “mei wen ti?” I have a real problem here, and some quirky Chinese expression is not going to get my credit card working.
As we arrived at our hotel in the capital city, my turn came in to check in, with no credit card, and not enough cash to pay. De joined me at the counter, looked at me and smiled, “mei wen ti.” While I felt like blowing a major gasket at that moment, in just that instant, De pulled out a credit card, and said something to the clerk behind the desk, which I assume, was informing the clerk that De was accepting responsibility for the room until I got my credit card mess figured out.
De turned to me again and smiled. “Mei wen ti.” This time, emotionally choked up, I repeated, “mei wen ti?” De said, “go take your bags upstairs and come downstairs right away. It is time to meet your daughter.”
With a thirteen hour time difference, and a turtle-slow internet connection, over a weekend no less, four days later, the problem with my credit card was resolved and by the time it was to check out, I was able to pay my hotel bill. Now, I just had to worry about the hotel in Hong Kong which would now be done.
Mei wen ti. I could have worried myself into a frenzy, and all that would have happened in a foreign country, at the least could have led to an international incident with an American going berserk. Instead, the kindness of two strangers, and three words, spoken in Chinese, taught me a new way of dealing with things that were beyond my control.
Mei wen ti.