No Thanks, and a Friendly Face


I was waiting in subzero temps on the street with the 3 youngest kids (ages 3, 5 and 7) to find a taxi willing to take us home from our Sunday gathering yesterday.

It was during the shift change time period (which seems to have expanded and is constantly starting earlier), so many empty taxis drove by without stopping.

Two friendly guys on motorbikes offered to take us home–two kids on one bike, China Surprise and me on the other.

Traffic here is rather wild and crazy on the best of days, not to mention when the roads are covered with unsalted ice and cars are skidding everywhere.

They insisted and insisted.

They were really nice!

I politely declined…

Another man approached us like so many strangers do and asked the usual questions, then said he would help us find a taxi so he accompanied me down the sidewalk, occasionally shouting out “be careful” to one or another of the kids, trying to muss with their hair, etc.

He even helped me bargain with the taxi driver in the end, helped us in the car and waved goodbye.

In the US, this kind of behavior might be considered creepy.

Here, it’s so normal I don’t even think twice about it until I write it down and reread what I just wrote.

Personal conversations with people about my age, questions about my income, how I can handle raising “so many” kids, and all the rest are repeated a dozen times a day.

Sometimes the people gleaning our vital stats then proceed to call their friends up right away and repeat all the juicy details.

Strangers comment to each other as we pass by:


“No, German.”

If I’m in the right mood, I call out, “No, American” or “Norwegian” and give them a little surprise.

Yes, as the kids say, life on the streets of China is never boring and there’s always something to look at.

Like the men crawling along the pinnacle of the new train station dome, many floors above the ground.

Or the men climbing out of the manhole.

Or the guys using shovels and picks to clear the neighborhood roads.

Or the one-stop shopping for kites, ice cream, plastic wash-tubs and ladies’ undergarments.



2 responses »

  1. It’s so amazing how you find yourself attracting attention in an Asian country simply because of the physical differences. I remember in Korea, at the orphanage I went to, a group of little girls all wanted to sit next to me and they were looking at my fingernails (long and painted; back when I had long fingernails). they appeared to be a hot topic of conversation for a while. Great memories for you all!

  2. This is a nice sketch of all the little things that make living abroad so fascinating and enjoyable. I live in Korea, and I recognized a lot of the same moments from my time here. Thanks for sharing.

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