Tonight, after putting Owen to bed, I ventured out. Hangzhou is a party after dark any night of the week, and I like to get a feel for the city’s electricity, even if I’m only out to buy a decaf and get some air. Tonight, we needed fruit and Diet Coke (the former to ward off the winter blahs; the latter to fuel Nick’s furious paper-writing stint as the semester comes to a close).
I hadn’t changed my clothes after coming home from the gym, um, a few hours earlier (okay, gross, I know), so I kept my shorts on and threw on a fleece, reasoning that it wasn’t too chilly out. I was right: the night air barely qualified as brisk, and it felt good to be out of the house, alone. I took the long way, walking along the lake, where I briefly took in the ever-present (but always spectacular) fountain show (the water shot heavenward in time to a soaring rendition of the Blue Danube) and the less-than-awesome lasers-for-sale booth that tries to blind every passer-by with evil points of green light.
I arrived at the fruit stand in good spirits. The usual fruit sellers had gone home for the night, but the man and woman working there recognized me and asked, “Where’s your baby?” I told them he was asleep at home. Rapid-fire, the rest of our interaction went like this:
Man: Aren’t you afraid of the cold?
Me: No, I like the cold.
Woman: Really, you’re not cold?
Me: No, I’m okay. I like the cold.
Old man who appeared literally out of nowhere: You don’t fear the cold? That is GREAT! Shenti hao! (Literally translated, this means “good body,” but it also means “good health” and implies fortitude)
Me: (Giving the old man a double thumbs-up) Yeah! The cold is okay! I would like 5 oranges, please.
Man: You got it.
Old man: Shenti hao! Do you people eat beef?
Old Man: What do you all eat? Beef?
Me: Sometimes, but beef is a little expensive. We prefer eggs, or chicken.
Man and older man, conferring: Very true, beef is expensive. Eggs and chicken are good for you.
Older man (grinning broadly): Have a good night! Bye!
Me: See you later!