Editor’s Note: ‘Perspectives‘ will be an ongoing series that is written by the members of our expat community. Each article will highlight in a unique way the highs, lows, and everything in between, of living in Fuzhou. Most importantly though, it will chronicle the intensely personal experiences of those that we get to know so well, and then at some point in the future, inevitably, bid farewell to.
Written by: Shannon Ullman (Philadelphia, USA)
Weighing produce in the grocery store is like Battle Royal. I’m certain that sweet old lady I just exchanged smiles with by the oranges is the same woman who just ruthlessly trampled me out of line. The girl who’s wallet I just picked up and returned to her when she dropped it at the mall, yeah, she’s the one banging down my dressing room door and yelling at me to “hurry up.” These events happen to me everyday in Fuzhou but I never get used to it. No, never. I let the rage build. With this well of rage edging closer to my heart, it may be perceived that I would hold some sort of disdain for the locals here, but I don’t. My rage is diffused almost as quickly as it builds. It’s diffused by the woman on the bus reaching over and tucking my purse under my arm so that I don’t fall prey to thieves.
That man in the street offering his assistance in the instance I ever needed help, he made me forget about being trampled on in the produce line. When I see women yelling at strangers through bathroom stall doors to ” get out” , so they can have their turns, I’m calmed by the thoughts of a stranger offering to teach me to pick mangos.
I lost faith in people when witnessing a motorist run an old lady off her bicycle and not even take one glance back , but it was restored by the locals who fervently offered their bus seats to the elderly. It will continue to dampen my spirits every time I see a bus driver drive off with satisfaction only after they watch an old, cane wielding man running and shouting just to have those doors shut in his face.
However, those same bus drivers take me to places like the park where I can make peace with their lack of compassion. These places are where people come together to dance, chat and fuss over babies. This is where my disdain can recede.
I have no disdain for the locals because of Gary. I met him on a hellish flight from America to Fuzhou which included multiple delays, canceled flights and little direction in English. He started talking to me no doubt because I looked like a deer in headlights and was struggling with my luggage in the Beijing airport. When he found out I was flying to his home city of Fuzhou and was nervous about it, he immediately took me under his wing. With his limited English he consistently found me among the crowd, made sure I was where I needed to be and understood what I was meant to do.
Dancing squad is a common scene in Fuzhou, and probably the other 660 cities in China
Gary translated for me, helped me contact home, bought me breakfast and carried my luggage. That man stuck with me until I was exactly where I needed to be with who I needed to be with. When I profusely thanked him and inquired why he had been so nice, he simply said, “because you are good.” I never was really sure of exactly what he meant. Gary received no benefit from helping me. He did it because he felt like it. He did it out of the goodness of his heart.
He was the introduction to the Fuzhou people that I needed in order to look past their faults and see all their inner goodness. Gary is the barrier to my heart which stops the disdain from getting to close.