Every day when I come home, there is a small group of elderly women and men waiting for me outside perched on a strange assortment of chairs that have been rescued from the trash bin. In actuality, they’re not waiting for me, per se, but they are hanging out, drinking tea and occasionally playing checkers or other games. I’m just a bit of entertainment each day.
I am one of the only foreigners in the building of about 4000 people. So needless to say, I’m well known around the compound. I’m the giant who comes from “jiānádà” (Canada).
In the beginning they (the three elderly women and two older men) used to just stare at me and to be honest, I felt somewhat nervous of their stares. But over time, as my Mandarin slowly improved, we started to chat more. Over time, we started to laugh more and now, every day when I come home, I grin when I see them.
Most days, the women tell me they like my hair or eyes. They like my pale white skin. The men, on the other hand, LOVE my bike. They often motion to it and talk about it. Today, as I was wheeling the bike up the ramp (I also love that there’s a ramp as well as stairs) one of the men came over to it and started inspecting the bike. He gave me a thumbs up sign. He asked me a question, and I wasn’t quite sure what he meant but judging by his gestures, he wanted to try out my bike. Seriously, the man is like 80 years old. I smiled. I was totally going to let him try my bike.
The women started laughing and laughing and we all watched as he rolled the bike onto the flat surface, shakily got on and then tried the accelerator (electric bike). He lurched forward, we all gasped and I close my eyes (silently begging that no, I would not be the one responsible for killing the 80-year-old man on my electric bicycle).
And then in a moment he was off, racing around the courtyard while the neighbors laughed and cheered. Round and round and round he went, his funny round glasses slipping down his nose in the heat. He laughed and laughed and we laughed and laughed.
And it was marvelous.