shu and joe

Reverse Migration

Published on January 23, 2006

I noticed the cab driver had a hand-crocheted pale blue cozy for his thermos. All the cabbies have little portable cups and thermoses sitting in the ridge between the passenger’s seat and the driver’s seat. Filled with tea or hot water, they are tattered and discolored from years of continuous use. I imagined the cabbie’s wife, sitting at home by the radio, fastidiously looping and threading until she’d made the perfect holster. Based on its snug fit, she’d probably painstakingly measured the thermos and tested several strands of yarn against its silvery cover to find the right match.

The cabbies seem pretty gruff so far. Hunched over and looking older than they seem, they have no time for stuttering foreigners giving them directions from pocket maps. They snort when they realize my Chinese barely rivals that of a 4 year-old and gingerly reach for their glasses to have a closer look at Joe and me. Where are we from? What are we doing in Beijing? Am I Chinese or some strange Korean/Japanese castoff? Are we part of the hordes of foreigners crowding into their city in search of fortune and power? My only response to the silent interrogation is a sideways look out the window. Must get used to this.

The streets are choked with cars, trucks, pedestrians and the occasional farmer pedaling an overburdened tricycle. Traffic presents a problem for newly-minted immigrants like ourselves and the combination of noise and congestion brings ones shoulders up closer to ones ears. By the end of the day I’d grown accustomed to my hunchback, eyes squinting in the foggy evening haze, unsure which multi-lane highway was a ring road versus a regular road. I’m sure I’ll learn the difference after living here for two years.

Filed under: Beijing

1 Comment

  1. tom barnes says:

    shu and joe
    just checked out your site. wonderfully written, evocative postings. keep it up!

    Cuba was an experience. just back to NY. we got Florian, Jing, Kasey, Beverly and Christian together for CNY meal in Chinatown. we missed your presence.

    I should start my own blog. You have inspired me..

    cheers and kung hai fat choi!


Leave a Reply