The most surprising thing happened to me the other day, and while I am not positively sure why it happened when it happened, I have some ideas. I have acquired a Chinese mama.
But, as per usual, some background first.
As mentioned in a few previous posts, I recently twisted my ankle and I can’t walk. I live on a Chinese college campus, and currently, as I don’t have an operational kitchen in which to cook, I must go to one of the campus cafeterias to eat. To get to the cafeteria, I must go down the flight of stairs in my building (luckily, I’m on the second floor), then out into the courtyard, then up some stairs through the entryway, then down some stairs to get out of the entryway, then around the corner to the cafeteria, then up some stairs, then over a floor that is either covered in greasy spills or being mopped. Then the same, but in reverse, to get home. On crutches, it is an ordeal. In the rain, it is treacherous.
So, basically, to limit the ordeals, I go to the cafeteria once a day. On rainy days, I can sometimes find one of my students who is free to help get me some food. I try to limit the student help though, as they refuse to take money from me, and I know many of them are poor. I have some fruit at home, but basically, I eat once a day. Not a super big deal – I have less of an appetite as I am doing much less physically – but I am also losing a lot of weight, and people are commenting in disapproval. That, in and of itself, is surprising as being thin as a woman is highly valued in China.
I am suspecting that noticing I am dropping too much weight too quickly, in combination with seeing how pathetic I look hobbling up and down endless stairs, has prompted some unexpected help in the food department.
There is an interesting job or role in China that I am still learning about. The title 阿姨 or ā yí (pronounced Ah-EE) is a job held by women. It technically translates as ‘auntie’, but the role can apply to anything from a person you bring in to clean your house once a week (maid), to a woman who lives with you to cook, clean and take care of your family’s children (nanny/housemaid). The staff housing where I live on campus has two women called by this title. They have an apartment on the first floor. They have work shifts and they do sleep over, but they also have homes to which to they return when they are not on duty. They basically take care of things that come up in the building – essentially, they are building managers. They oversee other workers who do floor cleaning and the like.
The other day, there was a knock at my door, and to my great surprise, one of the ayis was there with food for me. She has come back three days in a row with home cooked food, and she told me she is coming back again tonight. Above, I included photos of some of the things she has brought – a roasted sweet potato; lotus, pork and cabbage stir fry; and chicken and kelp soup. It has been delicious. I did tell her that she didn’t need to bring me food. It is actually good for me to try to get out of my apartment – for exercise, for healing, for confidence-building. But she insists, and I am thankful for this surprise.
More info on how to participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge can be found here.