Once Upon a Time in China Part 7: King For The Day

bya Gabrielle at 2:24 PM

During our May Week vacation in Xiamen, China, Phil and I went to the Taiwanese Folk Village. If you missed the original post about it – you can go here . There are several pictures of the place, but much like the video I am about to show you, many of them have that wretched cloud in the center. Somehow moisture got into my camera. I did everything to dry it out, but Xiamen’s humidity won.

We really had no idea what the show was about, but since the admission to see it was included in our ticket price, we decided to watch it even though we probably wouldn’t understand anything they said. Phil told me that we shouldn’t sit on the front row because we’d be easy targets and probably get asked to participate in something. I wanted a good view, so we sat on the front row anyway.

A few minutes into the show, a man came over to Phil and asked him to participate – in Chinese of course. They tried to get me to go too, but I wanted to stay behind so that I could record it. I laughed so hard that I had I tears streaming down my face.

I really have no idea what important story they were acting out , or why they had Phil drink three shots of liquor.  Phil later said that it reminded him of Everclear. I just thought it was funny, and that you might enjoy watching it. You gotta love China. They think of the craziest ways to amuse people. They really do.

YouTube Preview Image

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Once Upon a Time in China Part 6: The Story of a Birthday Cake

bya Gabrielle at 11:20 AM

One evening, in Fuyang, Phil and I were invited to attend one of Phil’s student’s birthday party. For the life of me, up until 5 minutes ago, I couldn’t remember the name of this student. I’m sure that you don’t care, but it was about to drive me mad. I hate when I can’t remember stupid stuff. Anyway, the student’s name was Alan, it was his 16th or 17th birthday, I can’t recall, and he wanted his two new foreign friends to celebrate with him. We gladly accepted the invitation, of course. Alan was a good student and actually seemed like he wanted to be our friend, unlike many others who just wanted to tote us around and show us off like we were an exotic breed of dog.

Alan told us to meet him at the school gate after class. He didn’t live too far away, so we all decided just to walk to his parent’s house. When he finally got to the school gate, he looked very troubled and sad. Apparently, he had somehow lost the 200 yuan(RMB) that his parents had given him to use at KTV – Karaoke TV – later that night. He thought someone in his class had taken it, but since he didn’t have a clue who, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it. We offered to give him the money, but he politely declined. Some of his fellow classmates, who were also going to be in attendance at his party, were going to help him out. He made us promise not to tell his parents.

We first stopped by his grandmother’s house – at least that is who I think it was. She was old and they seemed related. We sat there for a while basically staring at each other. She didn’t speak any English, and our Chinese was limited – conversation was almost impossible. Alan translated a little for us. She gave us some tea, and when we were done, we walked a few more blocks to his house.

We arrived to find Alan’s father cooking in the kitchen. If I remember correctly, his father was a cook in a local restaurant, but don’t quote me on that. His parents, like his grandmother, spoke no English – besides hello. They greeted us with huge, happy smiles on their faces. Phil and I sat down on the couch and started sucking on some sugar cane that we saw cut up in a bowl on the coffee table. I always expected sugar cane to be more, well, sugary, but this kind wasn’t. I wonder what they call a coffee table in Chinese since many of them don’t drink coffee. Hrm, I never thought of that before now. :)

Phil had brought his computer with him so that he could play some American music for everyone. Music always makes a party better, didn’t ya know? Well, the music that Phil played was a bit different than what they were all used to. A lot of it was harder than the typical music played on Chinese radio. If you’ve been to China, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you haven’t, most of the music, at least what I heard, is very soft and slow. I’d say a lot of their songs have a rather strong lulling effect. I tried picking out some softer music for them, and they seemed to like that a bit more.

After Alan’s father finished cooking and had all of the dishes placed on the table, both of Alan’s parents said goodbye and left. I was very confused. I asked Alan why his parents were leaving, and he said something like his parents didn’t want to bother us. Phil and I shrugged our shoulders and started digging into the feast that lay before us. All and all, it was an okay dinner. I wasn’t particularly fond of any one dish. Like at most birthday parties, the one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about was the birthday cake.

Birthday cakes in China are a little different from what us westerners are used to. The cake is more spongy, and the icing just tastes different. I don’t know exactly how to explain it. Also, a lot of the cakes come with fruit on it. Is it good? Yeah, it’s alright, but I still prefer the western cake a little more.

Well, soon after we polished off our table of food, someone brought the cake out of the refrigerator. In Fuyang, every time you bought a cake, you got a cool ass Lotus candle. (I’ve got a video of the one that was on my cake. I’ll post that soon.) It starts out closed up like a bud. A wick sticks out of the top. You light the wick and when it burns down, it lights all of the other wicks on fire. There are wicks on each of the petals. When all of the wicks catch a flame, It opens up like a flower blooming and sings Happy Birthday to you. It’s absolutely awesome and looks very pretty with all of the lights off. I haven’t seen anything like that here in the States before. Well, the flower bloomed, we sang, and the when started to cut the cake.

There is a tradition in my family, or rather, a cruel joke. Whenever we eat something that is mushy, like cake, ice cream, or mashed potatoes, we like to get a little bit silly. I’m sure everyone reading has probably seen it done. It goes like this. You hold the mushy substance close to your nose, smell it, make a face like it smells like something died, pick a target, and have someone come smell it for you to make sure that it really smells as bad as you say. When they lean in for the sniff you shove said substance up their nose. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh.

Well, more or less, that is what I told Alan, who had just cut himself a huge piece of cake. For a second he let the words settle in and then without any hesitation, turned and shoved the entire plate into one of his party guest’s face.

I was shocked. Phil was shocked. Everyone, especially the person that just had cake smashed into his face was shocked. And then war broke out.

The boy that had just been creamed, picked up what was remaining of the cake and threw it into Alan’s face. Alan took what was left and threw it at one the girls in attendance. Her silky black hair turned white and she started to scream. She retaliated and threw her piece back – not caring who it hit as long as it hit someone. Cake was flying everywhere. It was madness. All I could do was laugh and watch. I had tears rolling down my face. The apartment had been trashed.

“Oh, his parents are going to kill us, ” was all that I could think.

This must have gone on for several minutes before it finally calmed down. The girls had locked themselves in the bathroom – 1) to protect themselves from further attack and 2) to clean themselves up. They hadn’t looked so hot going in.

I had been smart, and saved my piece of cake. When all was said and done, I ate it.

We made sure to clean up the place a little bit. I really didn’t want his parents coming home to see what the Americans had let unfold in their absence. I’m sure they would never have been able to understand. I made a mental note to never tell a person who didn’t speak English as a first language my family’s little joke ever again. :) I found it funny that he skipped the whole, “Hey, smell my cake,” and just threw it. You really had to be there. It was crazy.

Once we had everything cleaned up, we left the apartment, hopped in a cab, and went to a local KTV to sing for the next several hours. Nothing else crazy happened that evening, besides seeing a woman fall flat on her ass as she walked over a bridge. It was old and slippery – made of marble or something like it. Poor thing broke her tail-bone I think.

And that is the story of the birthday cake. The moral of this story? Be very careful if anyone ever ask you to smell something. :)

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Once Upon a Time in China Part 5: The Story of a Mouse

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

One day, while I was walking home from Yong Xing Middle School in Fuyang, China, a student(not mine, I don’t think) stroke up a broken English conversation with me. She asked me a few questions about America, how I liked China and if I spoke any Chinese. I had been practicing my Chinese for a while and was pretty sure that I could at least say that I was a teacher in Chinese.

I cleared my throat and said, “Wo shi laoshi.” (I think that is how you spell everything.)

Well, as soon as I had finished, the girl crinkled her nose, looked at me, and said, “You are a mouse?” I busted out laughing. I apparently hadn’t been practicing hard enough. :)

“No,” I said, “a teacher.”

“Oh,” she said, “laoshi.” She said laoshi very clear and slow, as though emphasizing the correct way to pronounce it.

Before long, we reached the Hangzhou bus station, and we said our goodbyes. I was surprised to find out that she lived in Hangzhou, and that she took the bus to school everyday. Hangzhou is about an hour away from Fuyang. I guess Yong Xing Middle School is just a really good school. I can’t think of any other logical reason a middle school student would travel that far.

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Once Upon a Time in China Part 4: The Story of a Dog

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

If you know me just a little bit, you should know how I feel about man’s best friend and why. I never really wrote about it on this blog, and I sorta wish that I had. It would have made this blog a bit more interesting, I think. For those of you who have no idea how I feel about dogs and why – here is a one sentence explanation why.

I worked at Bermex for 8 months as a meter reader, and every day a dog tried to eat/kill me.

Meter Reader

When I tell people I willingly ate dog in China, people tend to think I am crazy, sick, or both, but it never stops them from asking how dogs tastes. When dog was placed on my dinner plate in China, all I could think was, “Revenge! It is mine!!”

I’m not exaggerating. And if for some reason you think I am, stop what you are doing, find out who handles gas and/or electric meter reading in your area, apply, get hired, and if you last one month – I’ll applaud you. What? Did you think I was going to give you a prize or something.

Anyway, I digress. This post is supposed to be about China and a dog. This story is short, but sweet.

One night, in Shenyang, Phil and I were walking back to our apartment from a restaurant where we had just had dinner. It was still very cold at this time. A lot of the snow and ice from the worst winter storm in 50 years was still piled in places. It made walking a bit hazardous. On several occasions, I nearly busted my white American ass.

While we were walking, we noticed a little dog was following not to far behind us. This is not a to uncommon occurrence in China. Dogs walk around like they are people all the time – even looking both ways before they cross the street. Sounds strange, but I’ve seen them do it. It wasn’t any special kind of breed. It looked like a mutt to me.

The little dog followed us several blocks down the street until we got to the entrance to our apartment. Of all the places we lived in China, this place had the fanciest entrance – a revolving door. Such luxury, huh? Hehe. When we got to this door, I looked back at the little dog, and told him goodbye. I often talk to animals, even though they can’t understand me. Phil thinks I am nuts. He stopped behind us and watched as we stepped in and pushed the door.

I kid you not, as soon as the next available space got back to him, he stepped in and followed us into the lobby. I looked down at him and said, “Your not supposed to be in here. Get back outside.”

Revolving Door

Our fancy revolving door looked a little like this, except that it wasn’t all swirly like that.

The dog looked at me, barked once or twice, and sat down. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I felt partially responsible that he was sitting in the lobby. I did speak to him, after all. The “security guard” didn’t seem to mind that a dog was chilling in his lobby. Thinking about it now, he may have been taking a nap.

I tried coaxing the dog outside, but he wasn’t budging. If the market right next to the apartment hadn’t been closed, I would have tempted him with something tasty. Nothing I did worked. The dog just continued to look up at me. If possible, I would say he had a confused look on his face.

A few minutes later, a man pushed his way through the revolving door. The man looked over at us and said something in Chinese, probably, “Come along little doggy.” The immediately perked and started following through the lobby. The guy opened the door to the security office and the dog followed in right after him.

I guess the dog knew where he was going after all. He was just waiting for his owner to show up.

Phil and I laughed all the way up to our unlucky 14th floor. You really had to be there to see it.

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Once Upon a Time in China Part 3: The Story of the Crazy Flower Lady

bya Gabrielle at 5:44 PM

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.

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Once Upon A Time in China Part 2 – The Story of the Secret Passage

bya Gabrielle at 12:02 PM

If you’ve read at least ten of my posts concerning my experiences in China, you should know that 1) crazy things happened and 2) nothing was, well, easy. My first trip to a Chinese hospital was no exception. It is probably the most insane, embarrassing experience I had during my year and three days in China and quite possibly my life. With that said, I want to let you know that what you are about to read is extremely personal. If you don’t want learn about my experience in the gynecology section of the Shenyang hospital that I visited one fair day in March, I suggest you exit your browser now and come back in a few days when I have written about another memorable experience. However, if you decide to read on, and some part of your soul wants to learn what it is like to be a woman in China when her womanhood goes wack, I promise I’ve tried to take as much of the graphic grossness out as possible. One last warning, if you are still reading this – this story is personal, it’s a tad bit icky, and it will probably make you go EWWWW.

If you are still with me, thanks. Now on with the story.

I actually thought I had written about this long before, but when I searched through all of my old posts, the only thing I came across was the mention of my visit, but none of the details. Knowing I had written my experience down somewhere, I finally found it in my email. I had written home about it, but I had never made it public. Thankfully, the day that I sent the email was the same as the day I went to the hospital. Therefore, everything you are about to read is very accurate. I’ve gone through it though and added or taken somethings out because it was written during the time that my English had gone to super crap, but not too much.

Before we jump into the email I sent my parents though, I should go a little into the back story. It’s half of the reason I had to go to the hospital in Shenyang in the first place. Grr.

While we were being held against our will in Beijing, I somehow managed to get a yeast infection. I wasn’t all that worried at the time. I had had one in Fuyang, too, but with the help of one of my fellow teachers, I was able to get some cheap medicine down at the local OTC(Over The Counter – Pharmacy). Within a few days, I was back to normal and all was well with the world again. I meant to save the package just in case I had ever had another one, but when we moved, I lost it somewhere. Well, anyway, in Beijing, I discovered that I had another yeast infection. I went to the school there and asked Mandy, one of the school aides, if she could help me get some medicine. I showed her the word in my dictionary, but she didn’t quiet understand what was wrong with me. Finally, after some research on the internet, she thought she figured out what to tell the pharmacists and off we went. I would have just used the medicine that my mother had sent me some months back, but I had sent it on to Shenyang with all the rest of our stuff.

We walked into the OTC and Mandy started talking to the pharmacist for me. The pharmacists asked Mandy some questions and then Mandy translated for me. I tried to answer them for her the best that I could so she could correctly tell the pharmacists what my symptoms were. I think the pharmacists got the gist of what was wrong with me. She ended up giving me these strange blackish herbal things that had a horrible smell. I was instructed to put them where they hurt. I was sad that they didn’t give me the same medicine I had gotten in Fuyang, and a little scared that these smelly round things were going somewhere I’d rather not send them. I didn’t have much of a choice though, so I took them and prayed for the best.

Three days later, we arrived in Shenyang. The medicine the woman had given had done absolutely nothing except possibly make me worse. I could barely walk. There are just not words to describe how it felt . . . down there. After I got all of my suitcases and boxes unpacked, I was able to use the medicine my mother had sent me, but I was so far gone at that point that it didn’t much matter. It was time to ask for some professional help. And that is how I ended up at the Shenyang hospital.

March 12th, 2007 – An email to my parents.

Well, I just got back from the hospital. My yeast infection was driving me mad, and even though I took the medicine mom sent me, I thought that it was a good idea to go and get checked out. I feel better than I did this morning, but I think that I will take the new medicine I got to make sure that it goes away. This has been the worst yeast infection I’ve ever had. I mean, it’s painful just walking around. I’ve never had a yeast infection make me feel like I’ve gone horseback riding for eight days straight.

Hrm . . . where do I start? Well, I guess the first thing is that Chinese hospitals are very unlike western hospitals. I wouldn’t say it was clean, at least in comparison to the hospitals I’ve been to back home. All the paint on the walls was peeling and the floor was discolored and brown. It didn’t even have the typical hospital disinfected smell. I’m sure you know what I mean. I think that it had something to do with the bathrooms, but who knows. There was just so much to take in as we walked around. You’d really have to visit one yourself to know what I mean, although, I wouldn’t recommend it. I had to go though and I’m glad I did, but man, it was an experience for sure. Since there was no way I’d be able to get there and explain to a doctor what was wrong with me, I had Alice, one of the two teacher aides, take me. Phil tagged along for support.

It took Alice a while to find the gynecology section of the hospital, but after asking a few people she got it all worked out. Once we got to the right department, she registered me, but since she didn’t know all of my information, she wrote down a made up birthday, a name and her phone number. I don’t know why she just didn’t ask me. I would have told her. We then went into an office where they asked me what was wrong. The doctor asked Alice questions in Chinese and then Alice asked me the same questions in English. I gave her answers in English and then she gave my answers to the doctor in Chinese. This went back and forth for a while until they knew all of my symptoms. They wrote them all down in a little blue booklet and handed it back to me. (I’ve still got it somewhere. If I find it, I’ll take pictures and post them for you). It was hard for Alice to translate everything, but she did a good job with the limited English that she knew. I understood most of what she was saying. Then we had to wait for a bit. We got called back to the room for more questions, and then we had to wait again. Alice kept disappearing as we waited, apparently paying for services as we went or before we had them done. I’m not sure which, I just know she kept coming back with receipts. The only thing I figured out was that I wasn’t going to be able to leave the hospital until my debt was paid. China in general is very disorganized, so I wasn’t all too surprised to find the hospital acting in the same fashion. It was all sorta frustrating. I just wanted someone to make me better, and quick. Some time later we were called back into the room. And this is where it gets strange.

The room that we had been going in this entire time didn’t have a door. All it had was a door frame and a sheet to act as a door. On the other side of the drape, there was a desk where two doctor-looking people sat. They were constantly taking forms from people, filling them out and typing something into the computers before them. To the left of them was a half wall with an opening into what appeared to be an examining room, but it didn’t have a door or a sheet.

When it was my turn to be inspected, Alice motioned for me to enter the room. Before me was the ever wonderful examining table that I’ve learned to file under the adjectives invasive and uncomfortable. I heard the doctor say something to Alice, but didn’t understand. I looked to Alice for guidance, even though I was pretty sure what was about to happen.

“She wants you to take off your pants and underwear,” Alice said handing me a blue paper-like blanket. “And put this over you.” Hey, at least they gave me a blanket.

I was pretty familiar with this part of the act. I’d done it before, but usually there was no one else in the room. I looked at the doctor and Alice for a second, thinking that they would disappear so that I could disrobe in private, but the two of them stood there staring at me, waiting. I took it as a clue, and off came my clothes. Neither one looked the other way. Eh, I thought, I’m never going to see these people again, well, except for Alice, that is. I just met this woman yesterday, so you can imagine the embarrassing moment I was going through. I seriously doubt this was in her job description. I jumped up onto the table and assumed the position.

OBGYN Examining Table

My table didn’t look anything like this one,but it served its purpose just the same.

The doctor snapped on her gloves and didn’t waste a minute. She tapped the stirrups(the foot rests – see picture above) and I obliged. Alice is still standing there, staring at me, taking in all their is to see. I guess after an experience like this, I can say that we have bonded in the strangest of ways. Down below the blue paper-like blanket the doctors face went and almost immediately her face popped back up. The face of total disgust she gave me almost made me laugh and also made me worry – dear God, what is wrong with me?!!

The doctor started speaking to Alice, probably telling her that this was the nastiest white woman she’s ever seen, but I guess I’ll never know. After a short conversation, Alice looked to me and started translating, probably leaving out all the dirty things the doctor just told her about me. Although, if she did, he face never showed it. All of the questions she asked me were pretty normal. Does it hurt? How long have it been hurting? And a few other rather embarrassing questions I am sure you’d rather not read about. But it wasn’t until she started referring to the “land down under” as the “Secret Passage” that I just about lost it. By lost it, I mean laugh. Eternally, I was rolling, but it was really hard to keep a straight face. I don’t know if she was trying to be polite or if she just didn’t know the real English word for it. For those curious, vagina in Chinese is ??, or yi-n bù, just in case you ever need to know.

Who knows, it could be on Jeopardy one day when I am rich and famous. Answer: During her year and three day stint in China, author Gabrielle Cook went to a Chinese hospital to make sure this certain part or her body wasn’t about to die. Question: What is a yi-n bù?

Anyway . . . all the while, there are 2 or 3 Chinese woman peering around the wall at me. Maybe they had never seen a white woman before or perhaps they were just very concerned. I probably should have been mortified, but I think I took it all very well, considering.

Chinese Hospital

This is pretty much exactly what it looked like, including the nosy peeps staring around the corner as though I was the first magical unicorn they had ever set eyes on. Yes, I just referred to myself as a magical unicorn. I’m that special!

The doctor took a sample and then I got up and put my pants on. The 2 or 3 nosy peeps’ eyes had not wavered from the corner of the wall. They wanted to catch the thrilling finale of this five star movie. We had to wait on the results for like an hour and a half. Finally, we got the medicine I had been dying to get all day – all 4 different types of them – diflucan(which was a shock – I never thought I would have found that medicine in China of all places), some more monistat like things, some other monistat like things, and then some wash. If this doesn’t cure me, I don’t know what will. And that was my experience of a Chinese hospital. Not as bad as I thought, but then again, this was the best one in Shenyang. All in all everything cost me 267 RMB – about 34 bucks. That includes exam, test, and medicine. If only it was that cheap in America.

End of Email

And now that I have written a freaking novel . . .

I will try and ransack my memory banks for some more interesting stories, but I’m not sure any of them will be as crazy as the one you just read. Hopefully, I didn’t gross you out too much. Just remember, I did try to warn you! :)

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Once Upon A Time in China Part 1 – The Crying Boy

bya Gabrielle at 8:32 PM

During my year and three day stint in China, there were a lot of things that happened that I never got around to blogging about. So, I want to take this time to go a little retro and return to those memories before they leave me forever. Some may be long and drawn out affairs, while others may just be a few lines. I don’t know how many memories I will be able to muster up, so this project may only last a week or so. Hopefully, once I start writing, more and more memories will return to me. They may be more meaningful to me, but perhaps you’ll be able to enjoy them, too. Well, without further adieu, let’s jump head first into a random memory. This one is a bit funny, crazy and perhaps a bit sad, depending on how you look at it.

On no particular day in Fuyang, Phil and I started down our 118 stairs, 20 of which were between our bedroom and the front door, to venture out for the day. We were down about one and half stories, when a little Chinese boy ,about the age of five, ran into us on his way up. He stopped dead in his tracks, took one look at us, and turned back the way he’d come at about four or five times the speed. Before we could blink, he was gone. Phil and I looked at each other to make sure we weren’t wearing scary Halloween masks, and then continued our descent. We were laughing. Neither one of us had ever had such an encounter before.

A few stories down, we ran into a young Chinese woman with a rather confused look on her face. It turned out that she could speak English, a little at least, and was on her way to our apartment to visit our roommate, Michael. She said that her son had just ran past her. She called to him a few times, but there was no reply. We said goodbye and down the stairs we went.

When we got to the base of the staircase we didn’t see the boy. It was as though he had just disappeared. After a moment or so of looking around, Phil took a look to the right of the stairs and spotted him. The boy was white, tears were streaming down his face and he was clutching a dirty, rusty pipe as though someone had just opened a hatch into outer space and if he let go, he’d be sucked out.

“Oh, it’s okay,” I said. “I’m sorry.” We both took a step closer to him. We were only trying to comfort and show him that there was nothing to be afraid of, but apparently, it didn’t work. The boy started wailing and more tears poured from his eyes. We got down in a crouch, thinking that if we were down at his level it may help. It didn’t. He wailed and cried some more, clutching even tighter to the pipe. A few moments later his mother appeared and tried to get him to come with her. He wouldn’t budge. Finally, we figured that we weren’t helping and decided to back off. Still in view of us, he refused to let go of his pipe. His mother continued to try and coax him back up the stairs, but he just wouldn’t move. We apologized and decided to get going. We felt very bad, but a part of our souls just couldn’t stop laughing as we turned the corner and went on with our day.

I of course didn’t have a camera at the time, but the boy looked something like this.
“Get away from me, White Devils!”

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