Sometimes, it is good to tell a lie
I am in my favourite cafe in Shamian Dao. They have tables out in the open, right next to the river. I often end up here reading, writing, or just watching the glowing boats go by. The people working here have become friends. One girl asks me for a favour. She wants me to translate a text message from a foreign admirer she had met earlier in the day. I try with my terrible spoken Chinese.
He is asking “ Can I meet you tomorrow”?
The girl (in horror): Bu yao!! (don’t want). She adds something else which I do not understand, but I get the clue that she does not want to meet the man outside of the cafe.
Now, I have to message back to the hopeful man on the other side. I toned down her response and typed in “Sorry! Very busy tmrw…cannot meet..”.
I see this one item “hot coke with ginger” in their menu. It looks like a translation or random English error. Once in a hotel in Zigong, a city in Sichuan, Ou had a lot of fund showing me a dish in similarly random English - “Fried Indian with rice”. Out of curiosity, I ordered the “hot coke with ginger” drink. It turned out to be hot coke with ginger. It was not that bad. It supposedly cures cold.
The nice thing about this cafe is that they let me stay well past the closing time. Jenny, the ever-smiling young woman who runs the place, dropped by for a chat. She is one of those youthful, bright-eyed people you meet all across China, working and studying part-time some language, management or IT subjects. We talked about her job, her school, my travels, etc.
I ask Jenny about her childhood days and childhood friends. She tells me about learning English phrases via foreign cartoons on TV and later enacting the scenes with her friends. It reminds me Ou, who once told me that the first English phrase she learnt to say fluently was from an American cartoon “prepare to die”.
Jenny stares at the river. I can tell that she is thinking of her hometown. She tells me that she will go home for the new year and I should come and visit her. She will show me all her childhood places. She asks me if I have been to her hometown Guilin before. Guilin was a city I visited a few years back when I came to China for the first time. I am not sure if I will be in China around the new year, but nothing would be more exciting than being a guest of Jenny’s childhood memories. I lie “Guilin, oh I have never been there. It is in Yunnan province, right?”