China, April 10, 2000
The Mongolians invade again, this time with the Gobi!
It's early in the afternoon and I am already addicted to
the trashy Hong Kong movies on Star TV. I promised myself that this
wouldn't happen, but once you become a househusband in China, and you don't
know Chinese well enough to follow the Ming Dynasty soap opera, the simple plot
cheap-production movies from south of the border become addictive. With
subtitles in Chinese and English for those who don't know the Cantonese
dialog, I can have the music jamming and still watch the movie as I do
Yes, I've gone domestic. With northwest winds blowing unchecked from Mongolia, it is a daily battle with the Gobi Desert for a dust-free domicile. Like my mom taught me, I am dusting, sweeping, moping, and washing constantly to minimize the red sand's intrusion on our lives.
Oops, now you know my dirty little secret: Jingmei and I are living together. For the first time in my life, I am living with a woman without the escape clause of upcoming travel to free me of any long-term emotions. With the expectation that this is now my home too, I've been quick to nest, re-arranging the whole apartment to suit my tastes, and I ain't one for subtly.
This morning I alerted the entire neighborhood to my presence with a long run through all the back alleys and markets in the Beijing suburb we live in. The sight of a laowai in itself is usually a stare-inducing scene, but one running is a traffic-stopping event! Two cyclist collided they were staring so hard, and a wink in return for the long viewing by a young girl caused her to loose her balance and wipe-out in the middle of the street. I almost fell myself I was laughing so hard and the two old babushkas that saw the whole scene were howling and backslapping each other with abandon.
I'm taking all the attention in stride this time around, for I am not coming straight out of a two year single-culture experience like I was the last time I garnered stares in Beijing. With a SE Asian experience under my belt, I am less stressed about not speaking the local language and more open to finding the humor in miscommunications. Also, after living in Australia, where I couldn't get a second look, much less a stare, I kinda like being the oddball again. I think I actually prefer to be stared at than ignored. Ha! Imagine that!
Unlike last November, I am not doing a long commute to work each day. I am riding in with Jingmei some mornings, but at her work, I pull my bike out of the trunk for a daylong wandering. Also, it is April now, and the spring is beautiful, not least because it leads to a warm summer, not a cold winter. Finally, I cannot understate the spirit-lifting abilities of Jingmei herself. The woman has amazing powers!