Finally, after three weeks here and with a flight back to Beijing in the morning, I’m starting to have a social life. First, I spent the afternoon with an older student from California, a retired mathematics professor. This is his fourth or fifth time to the Keats school. We went to lunch at the stir-fry bar place and then took the bus to the university area on the other side of town, stopping at a bookstore where the staff miraculously pulled out the Chinese song book he was looking for from the packed shelves.
We walked back home through the park to watch the singing and dancing. Not nearly as many people as that first Saturday I was at the park, but still plenty of action. H with his long scraggly white beard gets some second looks.
Later I met some other students at the expat bar on the corner. Although it doesn’t do much for learning Chinese it’s a nice change to have long interesting conversations with other English speakers – the retired lawyer/grandmother from New Zealand, an American controller that’s has spent most of his career outside the US, and a female Spanish journalist who has lived in the UK for the last 13 years. Topics ranged from Margarita recipes to just how bad was Mao really?
Ended the evening at the noodle shop next door with the woman from New Zealand. I have great respect for this woman who, tired of staying home and baking cakes, decided she was going to come to China to explore her heritage and learn Chinese with the prospect of living here six months a year.
There is often an easy connection between travelers. A shared common ground and way of viewing the world that allows for more intimate discussions with someone that in reality is practically a stranger. It’s a bitter sweet ending to my time in Kunming. I feel like I’m leaving just when I’m getting more comfortable with my surroundings and developing real friendships.
September 10, 2011
For links to all the posts in this series see the Kunming page.