I had dinner plans with two of my favorite former Harding students. Berry was once in my Principles of Communications class as a student. BTW – Berry, not Barry, was the way he spelled his English nick-name. He chose that name because he loved strawberries, blueberries and berries of all kinds! The semester Berry was in my class he left at Spring Break and did not come back. When I inquired as to why, I was told...
his grandparents were in failing health and he chose to stay with them until they passed. Berry did return the next fall, and he brought his newly announced fiancé with him! I met Li Aiting, Kitty, in the Chinese student office and she and I became friends very quickly. Her English was more advanced than Berry’s so we were able to communicate better. Kitty had already graduated from college back in China and was now at Harding to get her MBA, as well as to be with Berry. They both returned to China for the Christmas/Winter break where they got married before returning to school in January.
Kitty was a sweet and delightful young lady, that as fate would have it, wound up in the same MBA class that I was taking. We were assigned to be on the same group project and I grew to admire her even more. She worked hard and always completed her portion of the team project with high quality work. When she graduated I promised to come see them the next time I was in Guangzhou. And now, here I am!
I called Kitty to arrange our dinner meeting. She suggested a restaurant that was close to Berry’s work but one that she and I would both have to travel across town to get to. Kitty wanted to come and get me, in order to escort me to the restaurant, because she didn't think I could navigate my way through the complex Guangzhou subway system by myself. I assured her that I could do so and after some back and forth she acquiesced and said, “Hao De,” (OK) - but call me if you have any trouble!
I was determined to get to the restaurant across Guangzhou by myself. I left early in the event that if I had any delays I could re-route and still be there on time. Much to my delight, I had no trouble and made may way rather easily. But, the last subway-stop put me out on the street that was still several blocks away from the restaurant. Kitty had dropped a pin on a WeChat map for me. I called up that Pin Drop up on my phone, switched the directions to walking, and it gave me distance, and turn-by-turn directions for walking to the restaurant. I arrived early. I love WeChat!
I love to arrive early, especially when I am by myself. It gives me a chance to sit and execute one of my favorite past times, PEOPLE WATCHING! And that I did for almost an hour. Many Chinese people walking by would stare at me, or wave and I would try to say something in Chinese to greet them, or to simply let me know that I saw them staring at me.
Soon I decided it was time to get a table or try to find Berry who was supposed to get there before Kitty. When I walked up to the check in table, and before I could say anything the hostess asked, “Ni shi Xie Yeye shen ma?” Yes, yes, I am I said! I thought, “Wow I’m getting to be known in China,” (haha)! She then explained that one of my party was already there and he had given her notice that I would be coming. I guess he came in while I was visiting with my new friends that were passing by as they stared at me. But how did she know it was me??? (I was the only white American looking guy there at the time). The hostess walked me to a very large upstairs dining room and found our way to where Berry was sitting. After we greeted each other he explained that Kitty got stuck on the busy subway and that she would be delayed. WHAT??? Kitty got stuck on the subway system and I didn’t? I couldn’t wait to tease her about this. I texted her and told her that I was at the restaurant and that if she needed me to, I would come and get her and escort her back to our dinner meeting! We all had a good laugh about that when she arrived at the table.
Kitty and Berry ordered some really unusual foods to see what I would like. I ate just about everything they put in front of me. It was only the durian that gave me pause. I’ve had durian before, and it doesn’t taste that bad, but it smells terrible! I mean just AWFUL! Kitty and Berry knew what it was and knew that most Americans don’t like it. They waited in anticipation for my facial expression and disapproval after I tasted the first bite. I smiled and said, “I know what this is! None the less we ate and carried on.
During dinner they asked about my informally adopted Chinese daughter, Qu Xiaoya? Alice, as she is also known, had just graduated from Harding in May of 2017. She had moved to New York City in seek of a job and a bigger Chinese community from which to function. She loved Searcy but always knew that she would be alone and either unemployed or under employed. I was worried about her. I wanted her to move back to China, but she wouldn’t hear of that saying that jobs were even harder to come by unless you were connected. As I was telling this story Berry inserted, “I can find her a job here!” Berry worked for the Chinese government, specifically for the Guangdong Province for International Development. What he needed was somebody that could speak good English and work with American companies to bring their business to China. I thought Alice would be a perfect fit.
I also told them of my troubles of losing my Passport, Visa, credit cards and Flat Stanley. They never understood the Flat Stanley story, or what I was talking about. So I pulled out Flat Stanley 2.0 to show them! They surprise and bewilderment on their faces was priceless. After showing them my paper-doll like character I think they understood even less. They looked at each other with a, “What’s this all about look.” After I explained it in detail and the relationship it had with my grandson they were all onboard. Now they wanted to get their photo made with Flat Stanley.
After dinner we went for a walk. This is very customary in China, especially after eating a nice meal. They will tell you that’s it’s good for digestion and to keep someone from getting fat! They are so worried about getting fat. We took a few more photos, said our goodbyes and promised that we would do this again the next time I was in Guangzhou.
Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.