Thursday, February 11, 2010

The walk home

There are some regular parts of life that are pretty much identical day-to-day. Your gnattering thoughts might differ; the weather might be different; but essentially the action is the same. Until, of course, some unexpected incident knocks you off your regular orbit.
I exited my school building for the second to last time of the lunar year and headed to the intersection to wait with the chattering pedestrians chomping at the bit to cross. One of the heads in front turned randomly, and then took a second take on spotting the tired white guy, me, standing jaded behind her.
"Welcome to Guangzhou," she said in correct but heavily accented English.
"谢谢" I thanked nonchalently in Mandarin. Her ears pricked up and immediately turned and launched into Cantonese, saying that my Mandarin was very good. I said in Cantonese that my Cantonese was not. She took a few misfiring sentences to switch her thought processes into Mandarin and then talked rapidly and clearly in Mandarin with the usual personal questions that traditional Chinese ask. I said I didn't have a wife or children to one question causing her to assume I'd left them in New Zealand, or Australia as she liked to refer to it despite my stating that they were two different countries.
"The milk in Australia is good and the air too."
"Yes," I said not bothering to halt her. She asked a lot about my educational background.
"I didn't complete my school; I gave up half way. Out of my group of students only I didn't finish school," she informed me.
"Oh," I said.
"Yes, I had a problem with my brain."
"No way ba," I said taking what she said as the usual phrase Chinese use to say they weren't predisposed to study.
"But then I saw a doctor and I was better again."
"Oh... that's good."
"I'm studying now again. I'm half-way through."
"Oh, that is good."
"After my husband died, I knew I wasn't going to marry again."
"Uhuh," I said not knowing how that fits in.
"He was a bit like you, open and happy."
"Is that so?"
Then she talked about cars and the Nobel Peace prize. I'm not sure how it was that she brought up the Nobel prize, but we arrived at a corner near my place. We'd walked in the same direction I was starting to worry that she would follow me as far as I was going to walk, to my apartment if necessary.  I was loaded with thoughts that this was some sort of trick to ask for money. Or some elaborate prostitution solicitation. Or a marriage offer. I stopped at the corner and she completed her thoughts about Obama and the Nobel Peace prize. She asked if I was going to the right; she said she was going straight. I said it was a pleasure to have met her and bid her farewell and she did the same. We parted and then after I had walked 10 metres, she released a loud "Bai bai!" I reciprocated with just a little less enthusiasm and kept walking.
So she was just kind-hearted. Or still marginally mental. Anyway, I can thank her for an interesting walk home.

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