Tomorrow, I will be returning to America for three weeks in order to apply for a Chinese work visa. These visas can only be given outside of the country, thus the return to the States.
Being a person who enjoys planning ahead of time, I’ve had my week mapped out very well to get things done a little at a time so as not to be rushed.
First, I found a house-sitter who will take care of the flat and also Little Ghost. Rebecca (Zhang Ou), a Sichuan University student, was the one who helped me with apartment hunting last year. She’s a biology major but her English is excellent. Last Sunday, she came for a visit so we could go over all the quirks of the apartment and details of taking care of kitty.
This certainly beat staying in the dorm during the summer or returning to her hometown where there wasn’t anything to do. Having all the comforts of home, not to mention thousands of movies from my pirated DVD collection to watch, is a big deal for a Chinese college kid.
The only concern Rebecca had was staying by herself. This worry also spilled over to her mother who thought I was living in a run-down, poor area of the city (which I certainly am not). Chinese young women are not as independent as Americans. Having people around is a comfort so Rebecca planned on having some friends stay with her. As it turned out, two of my Luzhou students are attending a 1-week English orientation program at Sichuan University. Both had done excellent in a provincial English competition and their reward was a scholarship to an English camp in another province. First, however, they had to attend the orientation in Chengdu but had no place to stay. Since my apartment is huge, with two beds and plenty of room for guests, both Diana (my three Muskateer girl) and Agnes (another of my former students) will be staying with Rebecca while they complete their program. After that, Rebecca will invite more of her friends to hang out with her.
We’ve already had a number of phone calls this evening, just making sure everything was in proper order for her arrival tomorrow afternoon.
Little Ghost is easy enough to care for but Little Flower is a bit more bothersome. Because she would never allow a stranger to take care of her, especially in her own territory, this evening I’ve dropped her off at her babysitter’s home.
For 7 years, Mrs. He (huh) has looked after LF whenever I leave for the States. Her husband is a businessman and she is the vice director of the Sichuan Center for International Peace and Development Studies. I’m not sure what that all entails but it’s a high-level government position. Her daughter, now 20, is ready to begin her third year as a computer major in a Chengdu university.
Mrs. He has a small male poodle and the two dogs get along splendidly. Of course, it usually takes LF a few days to get used to her new environment. Usually, she stays huddled in her carrier and refuses to come out, even to eat or use the toilet, but eventually Mrs. He and family win her over.
Whenever I leave their home, it’s a very unhappy, panicked LF whom I hear whimpering and barking at the door but upon my return, all that’s forgotten. Mrs. He then gives me the rundown of all LF’s happy times she’s enjoyed with everyone, including her romps with Huan-huan (the poodle) and her play sessions with her daughter and husband.
Yes, my well-planned week was moving along quite nicely. House sitter and animals taken care of, gifts bought, visa documents in order, suitcase just about packed, an early night in
expected . . . . and then came the explosion.
At midnight, as I was about ready to turn off the lights and call it a day, I heard a huge bang. After racing to the kitchen windows, I peered out to see crowds of people in our red light district pouring out of buildings into the street. Because my windows don’t look directly onto that area, all I could see were the heads of hundreds standing along the sidewalk and in the middle of the road but I couldn’t make out anything else.
Not about to miss out on a neighborhood event, I grabbed my camera and quickly made my way clear around the block to find out what all the commotion was about.
By the time I arrived, perhaps 15 minutes later, the police were there keeping the crowds back. Two fire trucks were also present and firemen were moving about in front of the building opposite mine. An ambulance slowly inched its way to the front of the crowd while I did the same.
The Yang’s convenience store is on this road so I stopped in to talk to Jalin’s mom and dad about what had happened. They said there was an explosion but they had no idea what it was.
Sure enough, after making my way through the growing number of spectators, I saw what was causing all this commotion.
One of the shops along the street had exploded, the security guard door blown clear across the street with glass and bits of metal everywhere. The inside was completely charred with not a single thing left inside. As the firemen cautiously entered to inspect it with flashlights, we all wondered the same thing: Was anyone inside? Could they have possibly survived?
There was no fire or smoke, just a burned out, one-room shop and (thankfully) not a single person inside. Nor were the apartments above the store damaged, although the fire department quickly evacuated the building to make sure this was an isolated incident and wasn’t about to happen again.
Although nothing much was going on, no one really wanted to leave.
Being a very humid, sticky, hot night, our midnight awakening made this a great time for an ice-cream run. The convenience stores started doing an incredible business with the spectators. Net users, prostitutes, sleepy residents and others were cooling down in this wicked night heat with the help of popsicles, ice cream bars and drumsticks purchased from nearby shops. I noticed Jalin’s parents’ store freezer was emptying fast, along with all the other business owners’.
After about 45 minutes, I called it quits but people still haven’t quite dispersed yet and it’s almost 1:30 a.m.
I suppose tomorrow, we’ll all know what the explosion was about but I might very well be headed to the airport before then. Nothing like a little mystery and intrigue to occupy my thoughts on a very long, long flight across the Pacific ocean. That as well as a big "bang!" send-off.
And on that last note, I’ll call it quits for these wee morning hours with promises to update you all from time-to-time before my return to China next month.
As always, here’s wishing you “Ping An!” (Peace) for your upcoming weekend.