“My mum is also a foreigner”
Most kids (and also adults) in my compound are scared of Nico because she is bigger than the mini poodles Suzhounese people like to have as pets. But there are a couple of little girls who like her and even dare to pet her.
Last weekend I went outside on a sunny morning to take Nico for her first pee of the day. There was a 5 or 6 year old girl:
– Auntie, does your dog bite people?
Chinese people call others “elder brother/sister” when they are slightly older, “auntie/uncle” when they are about the same age with their parents, and “grandma/grandpa” when they are about the same age as their grandparents. The moment children stopped calling me “elder sister” and started saying “auntie” instead was a big trauma for me.
– No, of course she doesn’t bite people.
– I want to pet her but I am a bit scared.
The girl would come a bit closer and the moment Nico moved in her direction she got afraid and stepped back. I grabbed Nico, held her head between my knees and offered the golden, shiny back to the girl. Then she dared to touch the dog. A bit later she stared at me. I was wearing my pollution mask and only my eyes and forehead were visible:
– Auntie, you are a foreigner, right?
– Yes, I am.
– Where are you from?
– My mum is also a foreigner, you know?
– Oh, really? Where is she from?
The girl bolted towards the place her mum was standing with a baby in her arms, yelled “MOOOOOM! Where are you from?”, and was back by my side in 5 seconds:
– She is from Ningxia. [A province in the north-west of China]
[When I told C. about this conversation he almost died laughing. I guess the girl was confusing the words 外国人 waiguoren (foreigner) with 外地人 waidiren (Chinese person from another province). In Spanish we don’t have a special word to denote a person from another province, is there any similar word in English?]
On the way back home I passed by the mother’s side. The girl was saying: “MOOOOOOM! I want a dog!”.
The mum looked at me with eyes full of hate.