I was sitting at my desk making phone calls and sending emails. I had remembered to “turn on” Skype so that my “Skype Me” badge would be displayed on the sidebar of my web site.
I had decided to try out this advertisement of my “Skypability” a couple of weeks ago to see what I might get in the way of calls. I immediately started getting spam text messages and crank calls (including some obcene ones) but the number wasn’t that great so I left the “Skype Me” sign turned on.
I’ve used the service a couple of times for both domestic (U.S.) and international calls. A couple of times a day I block callers who just seem to be trolling but in general I’m pleased with this “free” service.
So this morning when the Skype tone was heard I checked the caller’s Skype profile. It was Benny in China (not his real name). I admit I thought to myself, “Oh great, another crank call,” so I kept working. But I started to think about the call and thought, hey, what if it’s real? I have great memories of working in China. Why not answer the call?”
It turned out to be an instant message (I haven’t figured out all the ins and outs of Skye yet). Benny typed “hi” and I typed “hi.” We typed a few messages; I spelled a word incorrectly and apologized. Benny responded “don’t sweat it.”
I asked Benny where he was. He answered ” I’m a university student in Wuhan in central China.” My miniscule knowledge of central China skipped through my mind and I asked him, “is the climate arid or mountainous?” While he answered I typed in “Wuhan” to Google Maps and located and zoomed in on the satellite view. “Are you near a river?” I asked, still wondering a bit if this was really “Benny in China.”
“Yes,” he sent back,” a big one.” I could see a huge river go right next to the city from the satellite photo so I figured he was probably for real.
We chatted a bit more. He was an engineering student, a Junior. His home town was near Shanghai; “You’ve heard of that?” he asked, and I responded “Yes.” I told him I had great memories of working in China (Hong Kong) and told him that I was encouraging my daughter, a college Sophomore, to study Mandarin. He asked me if I spoke any Mandarin but I had to respond “no” since what little I had learned while in Hong Kong was long gone. “Besides,” I said, “you know how we Americans are about learning languages other than English!”
We chatted a bit more and finally said goodbye — my remodelling crew had arrived and the dog was starting to bark. When I returned to the computer I went to Flickr and looked up “Wuhan” Wow! you should check it out - there are over 6,000 photos: