A couple nights ago, I met an old man and his gorgeous Golden Retriever on the street. He was in front of a barber shop, and I smiled at him and his dog as I walked by, and he brought her up to me so I could pet her. He didn’t speak a word of English, but we did our best to communicate with my broken Chinese and numerous hand gestures. I told him I was from America, a meiguo ren, and that we were English teachers at si shi san zhong (43 Middle, the number of our school). He grinned and told me he likes America, and that his younger brother lives there now. He asked me if we have dogs as pets in America, and at first I told him no because I thought he was asking if I had a dog back home. I realized my mistake when he (and the small crowd who had joined us out of curiosity) started laughing, and then I had to laugh at myself and say “no no no! yes, we have dogs! ” to him in Chinese. Someone from the barber shop (or hair salon, whatever it was) had come out to listen, possibly his grandson or something like that, so I asked both of them how much haircuts were. He pointed to my hair and said er shi kuai (20 kuai) and then to Elijah’s hair and said san shi ba kuai (38 kuai), which was kind of confusing…I still don’t know how much haircuts really cost. But that conversation had the feel of exactly what I came here for, to talk with people in China and find out more about them; to try out my Chinese, fail a bit, and then try to learn more. Who could resist talking to a beaming, elderly Chinese man out for a walk with his dog?
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