Tales of My Absence
The rain poured down last night in buckets, just at the moment I was about to head out the door to pick up Little Flower from her babysitter’s home. I’d have gone earlier in the day but Mrs. He wasn’t off work yet so no one was home. Due to the storm, I had to postpone the LF pick-up until this Friday morning.
That rain yesterday evening was a welcome relief to the sticky humidity of August that hit me as soon as I exited the airplane here in Chengdu. Whew! Illinois hadn’t been much better. It was leaving one steamy sauna and landing in yet another. Not too pleasant.
Rebecca (Zhang Ou), my house sitter, had taken excellent care of Little Ghost while I was gone. She thoroughly enjoyed being here with her friends, watching movies and hanging out, but wasn’t exactly used to keeping an apartment clean. University students in China are not as independent and able to be on their own as much as our U.S. students. Parents look after them during summer months, doing all the cleaning, washing and meal preparations, so Rebecca had some difficulty knowing how to actually keep such a “big place” (her words) in proper order. I had showed her all the cleaning supplies before I left but I should have had a tutorial on what to do with them. Basically, no dusting or sweeping of floors had been done in a month.
Bless her heart, she apologized that she hadn’t done very well yet remedied that by helping me tidy up after I arrived. It didn’t take long with two of us scrubbing down floors and getting up the filth accumulated after a month. No hard feelings and the place was satisfactorily put together in no time.
Rebecca had some interesting stories to relate after our cleaning session had ended and we were able to sit for awhile. I had left for the States before she arrived in my place. When she came in that Friday afternoon, Little Ghost was nowhere to be found. She looked for her everywhere. She called for her. She searched high and low yet no kitty.
At that point, 21-year-old Rebecca burst into tears, thinking she’d lost the foreigner’s cat. She worried it had escaped somehow when I had walked out the door or managed to slip through some hidden window opening that led outside. One plan was to call my former dean, Cathy (Li Xiaolian), who is a good friend of mine, and have her call me in America to inform me about the cat.
But Rebecca had a much better Plan A which won out: When in doubt, call your mum.
Thus a sobbing Rebecca phoned her mother to ask what to do. Her mom calmed her by telling her to first check with the neighbors (the Yangs) and maybe they knew something about the kitty. Rebecca immediately ran next door where Jalin and her parents suggested she leave food out. Little Ghost was at home but probably hiding. When she’s hungry, she’ll appear.
Rebecca did as they suggested, then sat anxiously waiting for LG to appear.
It took awhile but, sure enough, she saw a white face and furry body make a food appearance around midnight. She could at least get some sleep that first night, knowing she hadn’t lost the foreigner’s cat.
Rebecca said it took a couple of days for LG to get used to her but eventually, everything was fine. LG made up to Rebecca and all her friends coming and going. This included my Luzhou students (Diana and Agnes) who stayed for a week while attending a Sichuan University conference to prepare for a huge English language contest near Beijing. LG also enjoyed the company of an 18-year-old high school graduate, the son of Rebecca’s mother’s friend, who likewise stayed here for 10 days. He was taking English language classes at Sichuan University in preparation for his freshman year abroad in the States. According to Rebecca, he really loved LG and even allowed her to sleep with him at night, quite unusual for Chinese who never allow animals in the bed with them.
While Rebecca and company took care of LG, Little Flower had her own adventures with Mrs. He and her family.
After I trudged up the 7 flights of stairs to her apartment this morning, I could hear Little Flower barking eagerly at my approach after I called out to her. Mrs. He flung open the door and there was my very happy little dog, a lot plumper than I remembered her being. Mrs. He, her daughter and husband all have a habit of giving too many snacks to whimpering, pathetic-looking hungry pets.
LF also doesn’t get much exercise with Mrs. He’s family. Since there is no elevator and they live on the 7th floor, treks downstairs to the outer apartment garden area are limited. Usually, the dogs just use the restroom on the apartment’s rooftop balcony.
LF was certainly ready to go home. She quickly jumped into her carrier and waited there patiently while Mrs. He and I did the obligatory social chit-chat before it was time to depart. We have made arrangements for a farewell dinner sometime in the next few weeks before I return to Luzhou.
After LF and I returned home, Little Ghost greeted us by pouncing on the dog and then tearing around the apartment, happy to have her playmate back. LF had a bath and nail clipping, then it was a walk around the neighborhood to see all my Chinese friends. LF trotted along, enjoying her visit with the international foods’ store staff, the bakery helpers and finally the hotpot restaurant owners who gave her a chicken leg to chew on. Everyone was happy to see our return and said how much they missed us.
It was a good feeling to be back in my China home among all my Chengdu friends. It will be hard to leave them soon but for now, I’m going to enjoy their company to the fullest.
The Hourly Countdown to The Olympic Games
Now that the apartment is clean, the animals settled back into their normal routines, my noon swim is finished, and primary groceries purchased, it’s time to address the greatest excitement of all today: The opening ceremonies, just hours away!
Everyone I meet has had the same thing to ask: “The Opening Ceremonies start tonight at 8 p.m. Are you watching them?”
On my taxi rides around Chengdu today, the drivers and I were discussing the Olympics. One driver was lucky enough to be off tonight while another was proud to point out his taxi was equipped with a small TV screen above the dashboard. Those two will definitely not miss out on the fun. My other drivers, however, were stuck in their taxis, driving people about. They’ll have to watch the re-runs along with many others who have night jobs.
On our walk along the streets, LF and I spied our usual family-run convenience stores, lining our small alleyways, busily positioning their TV sets on top of high counters for a better viewing. Even the store across from my apartment complex gate had dragged down the family’s huge color TV to watch the games as they take care of customers.
At the swimming pool, the locker room attendant ladies were disappointed that they’ll be missing a lot of the games because they don’t finish until 10 p.m. By the time they return home, it’ll all be over. Only one woman was smiling happily. Her shift ended at 6 so she’ll have plenty of time to settle down for the opening ceremonies this evening.
As for myself, I’ll be next door with Jalin to watch the grand show on her family’s TV set. It’s a lot bigger than mine and will be more fun sharing the moment with others. Her parents already have a small TV in their store where they can also see, along with the rest of China, this spectacular event.
Needless to say, we’re all very excited to be able to witness China’s exciting 4-hour affair unfold before us live. There’s to be a very special bit included in the dance routines about the Sichuan earthquake. For those of us here in the earthquake zone, that will be an especially poignant moment.
One thing’s for sure: Seeing the Olympics in China will certainly be something to remember.
Sorry you all can’t join us in America. You’ll most likely be getting everything second-hand, a full day later. It’ll still be just as impressive, though. Enjoy!
On that last upbeat note, from Chengdu, here’s wishing you “Ping An” (Peace) for your weekend.