Because this story comes from the very beginning of my China adventure, it is a bit fuzzy and a little hard to put into words. It was however, one of the funnier things that happened to me in China, and I will probably never forget it. Just in case this memory falls into the murky depths of my mind and I can’t ever retrieve it, I’m going to put it in to print.
Probably sometime in early September 2006
One night, in Fuyang, a group of us, Phil, Tim, Vanessa, Mayia, and myself, decided to peruse the streets to see what the city had to offer us after eating a dinner of noodles. We decided to start with the street that runs parallel to the Fuchun River. It is a pretty street to walk at night with all the lights of the businesses. In the months to come, we would walk this street often. It was the street that we would take to get to Champion Pizza(千尊比萨), one of our favorite western-like restaurants near the apartment, or to find a bar if the day called for a stiff drink.
We had only been walking for a few minutes when a woman stepped out of one of the bars lining the street. The situation seemed normal at first, but that quickly changed. Almost immediately, she recognized that we weren’t Chinese(not very difficult when there are only 8 or so westerners in a city of 600,000 Chinese) and started running toward us full speed.
It took us a minute to figure out what in the world she was shaking in the air all crazy like as she approached us. Finally, our eyes were able to focus and discovered it was a bundle of roses in her hand. She started in on this spiel that none of us could understand verbally, but her motions were pretty obvious. She wanted us to buy one of her roses really, really bad.
We were very polite and told her we didn’t want one(in Chinese) and then turned to continue on our way. She followed after us as though she had not heard a single word we had just said. After about a block, we realized this woman meant business, and that she wasn’t going to let us get away. We stopped and tried explaining again that we didn’t want the flower(again in Chinese – several times). She persisted. She even tried to put one of the flowers in Phil’s hand. He pushed it back toward her. She pushed back. We attempted to walk away again, this time a little faster, but she continued to follow us.
At this point, we were all laughing hysterically, at least Vanessa, Mayia, and I were. My eyes were even beginning to water. Just so you know, it takes a lot to make me laugh, and even more to make me laugh so hard that tears stream down my face. This was just about one of the funniest things I had ever seen. It’s funny now, just thinking about it, but maybe this is one of those instances where you have to be there to truly understand just how funny something was.
We ran, yes ran, a little ways, and the woman ran after us. Finally, Tim stopped and walked over to her and took one of the roses out of her hand. I thought he was just going to buy one to make her leave us alone – I doubt they were very expensive. Instead, he told her one more time(again in Chinese) that he did not want the flower and placed it on the ground in front of her. Tim turned and started walking toward us. We had made our way down the street by this point, but could still see what was going on.
The woman got very quiet for a second, looked down at the flower, and then bent down to pick it up. As though nothing had just happened, she added the flower to her bundle and started pleading with Tim to buy one again. I was like, “Wow, this woman has some determination!” The tears of laughter were really coming down at this point.
And that is when we decided we just had to run, really run, to get away from the crazy flower lady. Down the street we ran – one block, two block – and she still kept coming after us! I just could not believe it. Finally, somewhere around the third block, the woman stopped. We ran another block or so before we stopped ourselves just in case she caught her breath and decided to come after us some more.
When we finally felt the woman was really gone, we started walking and enjoying the lights and the river view. We laughed the rest of the night and told the story to the rest of our western friends when got home. We made sure to take a different route home, just in case we ran into the crazy flower lady again.
In case you are wondering, the locals had a good laugh as well. They of course knew what the woman was saying, and we could only assume. And that is the story of the crazy flower lady. I hope you enjoyed it.