When You Turn Seven Months Old in Hangzhou

You are accidentally taken to the neighborhood version of the zoo, which popped up suddenly today: forty salted, smoked ducks hung out to dry on a metal clothesline, waving ever-so-slightly in the breeze, their ribs open to the afternoon sun, their beaks hanging, pointing limply towards the ground.

Followed by the neighborhood version of the aquarium: fish and bullfrogs in tanks outside the seafood restaurant, sorted by size and with a live population hovering around 75 percent (the live ones aren’t too lively, except those trying very seriously to escape, which involves attempting to jump over their dead comrades).

The fruit seller and her son/deputy burst into a high-decibel duet of “Happy Birthday” when informed that you are seven months old this very day. Then they both get up in your face and ask you repeatedly if you are cold or not.

Your pre-bedtime, wind-down stroll includes this monologue from mom, in response to an insistent pop-pop-popping in the near distance: “Oooh, fireworks! Let’s look and see if we can see them in the sky. Hmmm, I don’t see them. Where are they? Oh, wait, those aren’t fireworks. They’re tearing up this street with a jackhammer and welding without eye protection in the middle of rush-hour traffic. Let’s backtrack, shall we?”

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