This weekend, after a huge American breakfast including, but not limited to, pancakes, omelets, French toast, fruit salad, and bacon, a few of us went to visit the acclaimed Hakka houses of Longgang. The Hakkas are one of the minority groups of the Han people, and the ancient housing structure had been turned into a museum. It was an interesting stroll through the interconnected rooms. We paid 10 kuai and then wandered around alone in the still, dusty, empty rooms. We were tiptoeing through the ghosts of a once-lived in house. Afterward, we got lost trying to find the bus stop for a bus into Futian, but a kind woman carrying her toddler led us around for about a mile, block after block, speaking very little English, but we got by with our minimal Chinese and Jess bought a milk carton for the boy. The woman seemed thrilled to be able to help us, and we thanked her profusely. As we got on the bus and waved goodbye, she yelled after us “I love you!”
We left Jenni and Gen in Futian while Carrie, Jess, and I went to meet Andrew in the Xili neighborhood of Nanshan, where Carrie and Andrew live. They had found an outdoor roller skating rink where you could skate to your heart’s content for 10kuai, including skates. I nearly-but-did-not-actually fall on several occasions, so…success? There was ridiculous music and tons of people holding hands and skating in trains (yes, we did that too) and I could almost smell the nonexistent greasy pizza that would’ve been part of a trip to Skate World at home.
After skating we met up with Cliff and Greg and Greg’s girlfriend, Christina, for dinner at a nearby Hunan restaurant for spicy rice noodles, spicy beef, spicy cucumbers, sweet rolls dipped in a sweet milk syrup, dumplings, kung pao chicken, eggplant, and a soup of glutinous rice balls in a fermented sweet rice broth to wrap it all up.
The bus ride home was intense. Jess and I caught the 392 for a twenty minute trip to Window of the World, where we managed to get on one of the last 329’s to get home to Longgang. The bus was packed and for the first thirty or forty minutes we were crammed in with a bunch of other people in the aisle space. I eventually stopped apologizing to the woman who was forced to share an armrest with my butt. At one particular stop, before we’d get on the inter-district highway (with toll roads and checkpoints) a bunch of people got off, Jess and I grabbed seats, and we all settled in for the next hour and a half of the ride home. There was one woman who remained standing. The bus driver refused to leave until she moved. The woman was adamant about remaining on the bus. Jess and I didn’t know what she was saying, but she seemed convinced of her right to stay. The driver and the ticket handler both told her to leave. She didn’t. Then a man, a stranger at the front of the bus, stood up from his seat and turned around and said something to her in a nasty tone of voice. She responded to him at first, but then ignored him as he continued to spout off. He proceeded to leave his seat and get in her face as he grabbed her arm. She slapped his hand where he was touching her. He started yanking her down the aisle. She pulled away. He did it again, dragging her forcefully down the bus. Jess and I were appalled. No one was saying anything. I was on the aisle seat so I stood up and went toward them (I was behind the woman), put my hand between them and said, “Stop, stop, don’t touch her.” The man let go but wouldn’t look at me at all, he just kept staring at the woman and spewing probably vile things. Once I’d moved, other people did too, finally. Another man remained seated but he put out his hands to stop the first man when he reached for the woman again, and tried to argue him down. I told him twice more to stop, remembering to use Chinese this time. Finally, he sat down. I touched the woman’s arm briefly, then sat down also, heart racing. The woman started sobbing. It was awful. Finally a third man stood up and got off the bus so she could have his seat. The bus started moving. But the woman, humiliated and furious, continued standing and crying. It was several long minutes before she sat down.
At the next stop, just a few minutes later, a bunch of people got off. At least a dozen vacated seats. All that horror for nothing. I am often ashamed to be a human.
This whole last week I’ve been judging the English Festival at my school, which means going to classes as normal (but showing movies instead of doing an actual lesson, hallelujah) and then staying at school until 9pm or 10pm in the evening. The events included karaoke, plays, movie dubbing, speeches, and a teacher’s night. The teacher’s night was interesting because there were two sections: the non-English teachers, and the English teachers. The non-English teachers were way more exciting to watch, and I thought it was probably inspiring for the kids to see other teachers who they respect use English even though they don’t use it very often. Plus the attractive gym teacher did hip-hop dance. It was fun, exhausting, boring (all the speeches were practically copied verbatim), and really rewarding to see some of my worst students up there doing a darn good job with their English.
I just heard a bit of thunder. I’m going to wander outside in the muggy weather and listen to the rain on my umbrella. Just six more weeks til I’ll be home. I’m counting down.