It’s true, Hubby and I both grew up in small towns and at least for myself the thought of living in a city of millions was unimaginable. But yesterday, we laughed again how living in a large city in this culture at times can be so like living in a small town.
Little Man and I were walking back from the market. We have learned to ignore the stares as I pull him in the wagon (Thanks to another expat friend who gave us their wagon that had been shipped over from the States. Gotta love hand-me-downs!) I was hauling my load up the small hill to the back gate of campus when a middle-aged man stepped in to help. Rare! We often get watched but don’t get helped.
I turned to thank him and a conversation began.
It started like most conversations….”So this is your son?” We chatted about us having four kids; he has one. I told him how long we lived in China and he told me he grew up in this city. He asked about Little Man’s leg and the conversation turned a bit more personal.
“Oh, yeah we all know your family. Your husband is a teacher and we see your children. We know you live on the 2nd floor in building 5, but we do have questions?
At first this could feel creepy…..but really it speaks to the communal nature of this culture. It might be a big city, but our little apartment complex filled with neighbors in high risers – they know each other and they want to know and understand me.
“Did your son have an accident which made him lose his leg? It looks like you love your Chinese children the same as your birth children, but that can’t be true. Is it? We watch you come and go….where do you work? Would you adopt a child from here? What is this thing you are pulling your son in? This is my first time seeing a wagon. You are different!”
I answered his questions as we walked through campus, knowing he would report all my answers to his wife, a teacher along side my husband. She is sure to tell the other neighbors. It is like living in a fishbowl. Maybe if I hadn’t grown up in a small town that would bother me. Believe it or not, I welcome the curiosity of my neighbors.
As they ask questions our hope is that they see something different about our family and they will be intrigued by who makes us different.