The nosy neighbour
A few days ago I went to walk the dog right after waking up. Picture me wearing my bear pyjamas, with eyes full of sleep and messy hair. A middle age neighbour, also walking her dog, ran to me pointing at the newspaper page I had in my hand.
“Can you read in Chinese?”
“Yes”, I replied. That is the truth and, anyway, I didn’t want to explain that even though I can read Chinese, I never read the newspaper and only want it to put under my dog’s ass when she is in pooping position. But my monosyllabic answer didn’t stop her inquiries.
“Do you work in Suzhou? How long have you been in China? Are you married? How old are you? Oh, 31? Same as my daughter, then, she is a Tiger.”
“Er… then your daughter is two years younger than me. I am a Rat.”
“Oh, right, you Westerners count the “real age”. And you even know the Chinese Horoscope! You are a China expert! Is your boyfriend also Spanish? Oh, Chinese? Then no wonder your Chinese is so good!”
The last assumption is pretty annoying. I had studied Chinese for 7 years and lived in China for 4 before I met my boyfriend. No, he is not the cause, and also not the reason, that I speak Chinese fluently. But I am a well-humoured person and I don’t take offence for little things like that. Besides, no point in arguing with a random stranger. And, as I am home alone all day, I don’t mind having a chat with anyone who feels like talking.
One of the first questions this woman asked me was also which country was better, China or Spain. My polite answer of “Both have good things” didn’t satisfy her and she declared Spain must be so much better and that she hoped her daughter could emigrate to some Western country.
After chatting for like 20 minutes I told her I had to go back home. Then she walked me to my elevator. I asked her if she also lived in my building and she said no. That was when I wondered if she was a member of a group similar to the Chaoyang masses (a group of volunteer citizens that became famous after reporting many cases of drug use and prostitution). There are similar groups all over China and in Zhejiang they reported several cases of foreigners that were working illegally. I don’t know if she waited downstairs to see which floor I live on but, anyway, I am 100% legal.