Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Evening with George and Yoyo

Do you remember George and Yoyo, my two young friends from the Zoo (See A Day at the Zoo, Part 2). Last October when I went to the zoo, I met this lovely young couple who not only accompanied me through the zoo but comforted me and wiped my tears away when I cried because the animals were so mistreated. George had even warned me that that show was not entertaining, unless you like watching cruelty to animals, but I had to be a glutton for punishment and go see it for myself.

Over the Chinese Holiday season and through the busy and not so busy months we fell out of touch. And then, Yoyo manifested herself again! One day she appeared in my inbox, all fresh and pert and pretty and sweet. She invited me to dinner; with joy I accepted.

Her big news is that she had gotten a job! She was so excited and wanted to share every detail of her employment with me, starting with a tour of her office and meeting her coworkers. What a lovely group of women they are! They all wanted to know if I use Skype and if so, what my Skype name is. Naturally, I shared that information with them. My contact list grows…

While waiting for George to get off work, Yoyo and I walked around the neighborhood where she works. Poor little thing! She was so nervous about us talking again that she had spent hours making notes about what we could talk about, and how to say things correctly in English! I told her – in Chinese, that we are good friends and there is no need to be nervous. She could even speak Chinese if she felt more comfortable using her own language because I had learned a lot since our last meeting.

Visibly relieved, she put away her notes and from there, our conversation flowed naturally, as though we were lifelong friends seeing each other after a long absence. Switching back and forth between languages and only occasionally using her dictionary, she told me of her doings since our zoo adventure: finishing school, finding a job, presenting her parents with the news that she would stay on in Wuhan after graduation to be with George instead of going back to her native province. Her mother was a bit heartbroken but her father took the news well. He only hopes and wishes for her happiness. If she finds it with George, then here is where she needs to be.

And here with George is clearly where she belongs. He finally got off work and called to let her know where to wait for him and how long it would take for him to get there. From the second I saw these two together again, I knew they were deeply in love and intended to spend their lives together. For together they are: as inseparable as though physically bound. If either of their parents has seen them together, they surely must know that George and Yoyo is a good match.

George is much more handsome than I remember him being. Or, it could be that, freed from the burden of school and out of winter clothes bundling he appears freer than he did on our first meeting. Yoyo did point out that he now styles his hair in such a way that makes him look a bit taller. I thought there was something different about him… No matter what the change, he is a fine young man, inside and out. He too intended to make the most of his evening with his foreigner friend: selecting a great restaurant for us to dine in, taking us for a nice walk along tree-lined boulevards in the cool evening air and making sure I was in need of nothing at any time. He even asked if he was walking too fast and if my feet hurt, as though he would carry me on his back should I be in pain!

One funny anecdote: he asked me if I knew what the road we were walking along was called. “Shui guo lu” (Fruit Street) – I replied. He, surprised, asked me if I knew about this street’s history. Presumably it is where fruit vendors of yore came to ply their trade. No, I had just read a street sign designating it as such. We had a good laugh and he told me not only about the history of Fruit Street, but also what it meant to him personally: he had grown up in this neighborhood and could testify that, at one time, fruit vendors abounded. As a young boy running the streets he would pilfer a sweet treat and then run into an alley to enjoy it. The look on his face – bashful grin, contrasted by a mischievous twinkle in his eyes told the story better than his words ever could.

I wish I had more dinner companions! Authentic Chinese food is so good I would gladly eat in a different restaurant every day, if I could. It is not ‘proper’ for a woman to dine alone in China, so I have to wait until companions can be found or until I get invited. Such a pity! This evening, my dinner companions, while thrilled at presenting me with traditional foods that I had never sampled before, spent a fair amount of time reveling in each other. They kept up a steady prattle of conversation between themselves, almost as though they were drowning into each other but loving the experience of it. I enjoyed watching these young lovers in the business of being together and did not feel left out at all. Sharing this level of intimacy is a sign of friendship in China. How George and Yoyo shared with me that night!

The evening came to an end by pursuing buses. As it was after 9:30, catching a bus that would take me home presented a challenge. A lot of buses stop running after 10:00. Because I would have to make a connection to a bus that would take me to the campus, we had to run all over the neighborhood to find just the right bus. After a marathon hike we finally found bus 577. Soon enough it pulled up. We exchanged hugs and I shouted “thank you” as I boarded.

Side by side, my young friends walked home.

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