It was an anxious and long hike up to Mrs. He’s home on the 7th floor of her apartment building. Jalin was tagging along behind me as it was a Sunday afternoon and she didn’t have classes to attend. I’d just arrived in Chengdu that morning from a 2-day trip from the States. Flight changes and an overnight in Beijing made it a very long journey with very little sleep. But my first order of business after settling into the hotel here has, and will always be, getting the dog, Xiao Hua (Little Flower). 7 weeks apart and it was time for reuniting.
Once again, Mrs. He (a very gracious hostess) met us at the door along with two yapping doggies, her poodle and a very excited Chi, Little Flower. I was relieved to see not only had she happily settled into her temporary home while I was gone but had a playmate as well. Her figure was intact and her meds for her arthritis condition were obviously working well. She was all over the place, bounding from couch to sofa chair to floor, while we all sat around to chat about my trip to America.
As always, I presented Mrs. He with small gifts for her family as well as a money envelope for LF’s stay. We made this monetary agreement 7 years ago and I stick to it, although Mrs. He considers us friends and insists I shouldn’t do it.
"Consider it a hong bao (Chinese New Year red envelope) for your daughter," I tell her. Mrs. He’s girl is now 21 and a junior in university. It’s still the custom to give red envelopes to older young people as well so this pretty much satisfies her uneasiness.
In China, if you’re buying or gifting for the kids, pretty much anything is acceptable.
We all laughed at stories about LF which Mrs. He related, including how the dog always wants to get under the covers to sleep with her and her husband.
Mrs. He re-enacts a shivering Little Flower pawing at the covers around her neck, insisting she needs under there with the husband and wife team.
I merely laugh.
I don’t dare tell her this American has no problem with the dog sandwiched cozily in bed between the sheets and the coverlet. It’s one of those unspoken truths we both know takes place but don’t mention. Being Chinese, she’d feel forced to tsk in utter horror at such an idea and I’d be forced to admit I spoil the dog that much.
Better to keep the dog-in-the-bed topic in the unspoken category of our relationship.
Resting Up In The Capital City Before Holidays End
The week is coming to an end here in Chengdu. I am getting over jetlag and finishing up a few things before returning to Luzhou on Saturday with the new semester beginning on Monday. In the meantime, I’ve had a very exciting evening for Da Nian (Big Year), which was last Monday. This was the official Chinese New Year’s end to truly bring in the 1st day of the Ox on Tuesday.
The Chinese Lantern Festival in Chengdu is still in full swing at the big park outside of town, although last Monday was the festival’s day itself. It’s been going on for over a month and will continue to the 23rd. I’ve already been with Jalin, her mom and her mom’s younger sister to enjoy the displays and fight our way through the crush of other spectators.
Most students are still on holiday this week although not so for Jalin. She will be taking her high school entrance exam this summer. Her classes started a week earlier than others to prepare for this important test. Senior high school students about to take the college entrance exams in June likewise have already returned to their studies.
We’ve been making up for her diligence, however, with visits in the evening to The Bookworm, where Jalin takes her homework to do for the next day.
Chengdu’s Enjoyable Hang-out for Foreigners: The Bookworm
The Bookworm is a mere 15 minutes’ walk from us. It’s a library-style, restaurant-cafe that serves international foods, drinks, offers lectures by visiting authors, holds special holiday celebrations and invites all to enjoy comfy sofas with their laptops, offered magazines or choices of thousands of English books lining their walls. This is a foreigner’s hang-out but quite a few select Chinese also like to patron the place.
There are even children’s English speaking activities on Saturday morning with skits, book reading and craft time led by adults from the international community.
And recently, we’ve all been enjoying some new guests of the establishment: 2 kittens belonging to the owner. Both the long-haired and short-haired kitties have become the favorites of the place. Our little library felines hop onto tables, drink saucers of cream we offer from our coffees, bat at our newspapers, sit on our magazines and curl up on our laps.
Yes, the place has a very family-home, quiet feel to it. This is probably why Jalin and I have enjoyed frequenting it so often this week. For me, it’s a feeling of being back in America. For Jalin, it’s a pleasant and different cultural experience that she’s not used to as an average Chinese teenager.
I do have to admit, however, that there’s another side to the place. It definitely meets the needs of the single crowd, including young (and old) looking for dates. Jalin and I spend a lot of time snickering over the pick-up lines the men (mostly the older ones) throw out at the giggly Chinese girls they approach.
Yes, the Bookworm offers a lot of entertainment for all.
As I do not have access to my own computer, you will have to wait for a photo album of enjoyable pictures from our Lantern Festival outing as well as the Bookworm.
Stay tuned for more news from China!
As always, Ping An (peace) for your day.