China, October 1, 1999
Tom rocks the boat with a little help from his friends
|The first time I met Tom, he didn't believe who I was. He'd read my
website after a trip to Russia and offered to host me when I first arrived in Beijing, but when I
stepped off the train, he was waiting for a bearded wonder. Since it is
summer, and I'm not fighting snowdrifts, I'm clean shaven and I walked right
past Tom who didn't recognize me. The next day, after I'd met most of his
friends while looking for him, he actually had the gall to ask for my passport
to verify my identity!|
When Tom finally trusted me to be who I said I was, we became fast friends. We also effected each others personal more than either of us care to admit. When I first met him, he wore a bike helmet every time he rode his bike in Beijing. Twelve million Chinese riding bicycles in Beijing and Tom is the only guy in a bike helmet. Honestly, I was embarrassed to be seen with the freak and I told him so.
With three month's of exposure to my insane rule-breaking ways, Tom changed his ways. He can now be spotted sliding down Beijing's streets with wind blowing through his hair, and a happy smile on his face. Look, without a helmet, the crazy Canadian can even pick up girls on his bike!
To me, Tom gave me a new appreciation for immigrants. I've always considered myself only one step from the boat, since my Dad is a naturalized American from Mexico, but Tom, with Canton on his birth certificate and Chinese face in the mirror, makes me see just how un-immigrant I really am. Of course, don't go thinking Tom considers China his home. If you tried to take Tom's Canadian passport from him, he'd display the same patriotism as any red-blooded North American, and fight ya to the death for it.