It'll Just Take a Minute...I'll be right back...
It won't take long...
All phrases of the yesteryear when I could actually accomplish things in a timely fashion. Case in point from this afternoon: All I had to do was walk to the shi chang (picture a giant warehouse farmers market with cheap produce straight from the countryside...I know, be jealous. It's a definite perk of living here!), pick out a head of lettuce, a tomato, and a bunch of cilantro, pay my $.80, and walk back home. Considering the walk is only about 50 meters, it really should have only taken 10 minutes. But here is what happened instead...
I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone and take Beans with me. Never in the past has anyone seemed to mind that I bring my dog inside the store. In fact, they seem to like it. So Beans and I set off, taking a short break to let her pee in the grass. "Great," I think, "I have no idea what I'd do if she decided to take care of business in the middle of the shi chang." (And that, my friends, is what we call foreshadowing...)
So we get to the shi chang and the first thing puppy decides to do is poo on the ground. Embarrassing but not the end of the world. I grab a random piece of styrofoam that's laying nearby and attempt to catch her stuff, but she gets distracted because a stray dog approaches her. (I guess my dog isn't the only one they welcome at the shi chang.) But this dog is pretty big and I'm not really in the mood to break up a dog fight in the middle of the market so I let Beans finish doing her thing, bum a plastic bag from a veggie salesmen, scoop up her stuff in said bag, and then scoop up my dog in my arms to be on my way. Simple as that.
No, of course it's never as simple as that. Stray dog follows us and starts jumping on me in order to make friends with Beans. All I can think is that his paws are nasty and dirty and I'm not scheduled to do laundry for another week and a half (a money saving tactic that is coming back to haunt me!) Holding one dog, warding off another, I finally make it to the closest veggie stand. Then the locals begin to flock...
Being a foreigner in a foreign land is kind of like being a second-class celebrity. People you've never met before feel free to ask you any kind of question they'd like (some welcome, some not so welcome):
Where are you from?
How long have you been here?
What do you do?
Wa! Your Chinese is so good! (which I have to refute...if I merely said hello in Chinese, I would receive this comment. If you, blog reader who has never set foot in China, said hello in Chinese, you also would also receive this comment. So don't be impressed with me.)
How much money do you make?
How big is your house?
Do you rent it or did you buy it?
Can you use chopsticks?
And on and on...not that I'm complaining because their curiosity makes it extremely easy to make friends. But when all I really want to do is buy some produce, not reveal all my life's details, it makes me wish my eyes were brown and not blue so I wouldn't stick out so much.
So back to the locals...This group of three starts with the initial questions, find out I'm a teacher, and then want all the details about our school. Any other day, I would be happy to try to recruit new students but not when all I want is my lettuce, I'm holding my dog, trying to kick away the stray dog, and still have a bag of poo in my hand.
When it rains, it pours. I suppose the bravery of these people to talk to the foreigner inspired half the other shoppers, who all gathered around me as well. One of the other veggie sellers even joined the crowd and, while trying to feed my dog steamed bread, says to me, "Say something in English! I want to see if I understand." Feeling like somewhat of a circus sideshow, I start talking about the vegetables in front of me, knowing she most likely understood about .05% of what I said and all the while wishing I could just buy the very things I was describing and be on my way.
Keep in mind..I'm still dealing with dog in my arm, dog at my feet, and poo bag in hand...
Ten minutes later, after my impressive demonstration of my mad English skills, the conversation wrapped up with a different woman presenting me her business card and asking me if I wanted to go have tea with her. Sure thing, let me just find somewhere to put my dog and my poo bag... Needless to say, tea with random market lady will happen next week (if it even happens at all...)
They went on their way, leaving me my first opportunity to pick out my veggies. But no, first group gone, another lady approaches me and asks if I will give individual English tutoring to her kid. During this conversation, the veggie seller whose booth I'd been standing in front of now for at least 15 minutes, senses my desperation to be rid of this stray dog and starts beating it with his shoe. He then offers to take my dog for me and walk her around the shi chang. No more dog in my arms, no more dog at my feet, yet I still have the poo bag. I wonder why he didn't volunteer to help me with that?
FINALLY I made it home, accomplishing what I thought would take 10 minutes in about half and hour. I suppose I could never call my life boring, could I?