Scenes of Hangzhou on the Cusp of Summer

Photo credit: Aunt JessI

My conversation with the fruit lady today went like this.

Me: “I’d like some kiwis.”
Fruit lady: “You don’t want kiwis. They’re not good.”
Me: “But I bought some the other day, and they were delicious!”
Fruit lady: “No, they’re not good. Buy something else. How about some crab apples?”
Me: “Mmm…I want kiwis. Four kiwis, please.”
[she puts three in a bag]

Fruit lady: “Three is enough, really. Ok?”
Me: “No, four, please.”
[sighs, begrudgingly adds one more]

Next, I ask to buy three oranges. She gives me ten for the price of three. “Why did you do that? You’re much too nice.” “They’re ugly, “ she replies under her breath, then whispers conspiratorially, “I can’t sell them,” as she squirrels them away in my bag and shoves me out of the shop before another customer sees.

II

Today at the park, another mom saw a mushroom in the grass. She said, “A mushroom!,” picked it, and gave it to Owen. Hey, thanks for the unidentified fungus that my toddler will immediately try to eat!

III

Ayi showed up at work with an small, empty box. She smiled at me bashfully as she asked, “Can you buy this online? I can’t find it in the store.” [She does not own or know how to use a computer.] I examined the package. It was a weight loss drug for “reducing the stomach and fat.” I looked it up, and found that this particular brand was a knock-off of another brand of Chinese weight-loss pills. It was not available for sale online. I delivered her the bad news, and she said, embarrassed still, “No problem! I’ll look for it in the stores.”

Ten minutes later, as she was chopping up some chicken legs for our lunchtime stir-fry, she inquired, “Why do guys you eat chicken?” Well, we like it, I said. “Hmm. We like to eat pork. Pork is what Chinese people eat. Pork is fattening. It has a lot of grease.”

IV

A friendly parking attendant whom we see almost daily reached down into Owen’s crotch today (over his pants) and said, “Oh, my god. Is he wearing…a diaper?!” Yeah, I said. He always wears a diaper. “Isn’t it a little hot for a diaper?” she asked. No, I replied, he always wears one. “Even in the summer? In the summertime, it’s too hot for a diaper. Let me see his diaper.” So I pulled down his shorts in the middle of the sidewalk for her to examine his (cloth) diaper. She nodded. “Not as hot as the disposable diapers. But too hot in the summer.” I told her I didn’t want him pooping or peeing around the house. Shrugs all around.

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