November 14, 2006 - Guyuan, China
It's the Wee Things
On hearing of my transition to a foreign culture many people commented that it is often the little things that can make your day go rotten. Worse than that. Sometimes it the little things that can taint the entire experience. The straw of lore - making an already trying situation unbearable - breaking backs.
Partially that is.
It is the little things that make a difference.
But for me its those little things that make my time here so enjoyable. Usually. One event this evening triggered this line of thought - and as I looked back on my day I realized that I could start with breakfast and weave through a myriad of little events and interactions that made my day what it was - its easy to think back on just today and I realize how lucky I am. A disparate series of events chained together…
For breakfast most mornings I stop at a small bakery right outside my gate. The older couple that runs the place just recently had their son and new daughter-in-law move in. The shop borders on claustrophobic but the extra bodies have only made it that much more pleasant - that many more smiling faces.
This morning? Mu Fen asked me to wait a second - she ran behind the small curtain and presented me with part of her breakfast - a small bag of homemade fried noodles. And, as always, I was pushed out the door before I could reach into my pocket for money.
My first class? Class 17. As the other teachers put it, one of the “smart” classes, and they show it. These kids get my sarcasm - and usually throw it right back at me. I was droning on about the english vocab for their daily sports. Ping pong. Badminton. Basketball. I drew a ping pong paddle on the board - it came out a bit lumpy and with an exceptionally fat handle. Without thinking much more of it I asked,
And what is this?
In perfect unison - as only a class of well- drilled Chinese students could - they gleefully yelled at the top of their lungs,
Noon? The rush of students leaving the school is quite a sight - a sea of blue uniforms, ameoboid in motion - taking over the streets. Walking back to my apartment for lunch I get to practice my “hellos” to hundreds of students as they pass. As I turned the corner I felt somebody behind me.
I turned and there were three of my students - a group of friends from Class 2, sharp as tacks and cute with their ponytails - on two bikes. My turn elicited red-faces and the typical hand-over-mouth giggles. Then, turning the tables, they asked me if I’d like a ride. They must have been planning this.
“Wo? Qi ma?”
Me? Ride? The girl with no passenger on her bike couldn’t have topped 80 pounds.
The look of surprise on my face again got them laughing and they insisted.
This alone made my day - the kingdom for a picture - Allister getting a ride home on the back of a bike. Laughter from the flocks of bikes around us at the ridiculousness of the situation, shouted “hellos!” and pats on my back from passing students. It felt like the victory lap at the end of some cheesy feelgood sports movie where the underdogs come out on top. Queue stupid grin.
This evening? Dinner at a new noodle place. The usual events unfold. Foreigner pushes back curtain and enters small restaurant. Conversation grinds to a halt. Seats swivel. Eyes bore. Slowly - without losing sight of the monstrosity - new, hushed conversation begins. Usually a good time to play the “I can speak a bit of your language” card. I order. And of course, in return, a volley of questions. I ready myself for my obligatory,
The boss shines a big smile and repeats herself. Slowly. Quietly. I can understand her.
Usually a look of confusion and asking for clarification gets you a repeat plus 20 decibels at twice the speed.
I’ll be returning and not just for the great noodles.
Tonight? The tiny thing that got me thinking about my day.
As I sat working in my office - I hear a loud,
“THUMP!!” “THUMP!!” “THUMP!!”
To my delight I’m treated to a fireworks show. Right outside my window.
Just for me. Just for being Monday. Just for being in China.
It’s the little things…
love your outlook on things allister! keep it up :)
hey - its kinda hard to let the little stuff bother you when its so much fun.
not that stuff doesnt get to you sometimes... like packaged food that looks oh so good and then you try it...