March 10, 2013


It was supposed to be a simple Saturday excursion. Relatively short, as well, given that fact that everything seems to take longer than I expect these days, in the adjustment stages to life in this country. I was already feeling the crunch of a weekend that had run away too quickly. Friday evening went to a shopping trip for next week’s field trip. Saturday morning went to a track coaches’ planning meeting. Saturday afternoon went to a 3-hour school talent show [with some of my own students making me feel rather teacherly-proud, and some of the high-schoolers making for a jaw-dropped “Wow!” response]. R and I were both feeling the pressure of needing to plan our next week’s lessons, but we also knew the importance of fitting in necessary weekend stuff when we could. So we still set out after the show, on our mission to the flower market. I had not yet bought an orchid, and the luxury of a scooter to ride on, and to transport such things as plants, was not to be passed up. Once there, however, I spied a miniature gardenia plant that diverted me from my orchid intentions. I still would like that orchid at some point, but at the time the happy childhood associations with gardenias made me quite thrilled with the find. And, as I told R, I do love it when a day surprises me with something that is better than what I had in mind. Little did I know the sorts of unexpected surprises the day had yet in store . . .
After making our purchases, we headed from the market to dinner, thinking we would get back early enough to still have some solid work time before the night was done. But shortly after beginning the ride home, R realized she wasn’t sure where we were. We rode around the city a while, periodically referring to the map, but we still ended up somehow just riding in circles, more or less. We were, quite simply, cheery but very lost. Soon, R also realized that we were about to lose power. With limited charge capacity on the scooter, we had to plug in quickly. Sure enough, at one busy intersection, we sputtered to a stop. R knew that some roadside shops will sell electricity in situations like this, but neither of us knew enough Mandarin to be able to ask. We fumbled through some attempts until a man came up and asked if he could help us. He did not speak English himself but was willing to call his English-teacher friend on our behalf. Somehow in the mix of translation efforts, we managed to find a nearby fix-it station that sold us 30 minutes of charge time. At this point R began asking me to just take a taxi home. She could get back on her own and, as she sheepishly admitted, this had actually happened to her before. “I’ll do no such thing,” I replied, mildly annoyed that she would even suggest such a thing.
We practiced our language skills as we waited out those 30 minutes, and I noted the brilliance of this portable repair station. May come in handy, I mused, to know there are such options for flat tires, broken chains, and the like, while out on my bicycle. Somewhat charged up at the end of our time slot, we started out again. And, once again, puttered to a stop after only a few minutes’ time.
“Just take a taxi!” R suggested once more.
“Nothing doing,” I retorted, and we consulted the map once more to re-tweak our plan. Thinking she might know which way to go from here, we began to simply push the scooter home. It was a relatively painless process, and I was reminded of a similar situation that I had found myself in, in Zambia, quite a few years ago. I told R the story. Then I told many more stories, for we had some time yet. Too much time, in any normal situation. It took us several hours, in fact. Late that night, we rolled in, weary and ready for bed. What I told R when she tried to apologize again, was that I really didn’t mind—that I was grateful to have spent the evening with her. And it was true. Somehow that “wasted” time didn’t seem so wasted at all. It was time spent working through a life challenge with someone I enjoy, and respect. Growing closer as coworkers, and as friends. Experiencing life as it is here . . . just another life adventure ☺
The photo at the top is one of my students as they were awaiting their hour on the stage, captivated by the other performers. They looked lovely, I thought.

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