Source: InKunming | 2018-05-03 | Editor:
[InKunming--Interviews & Polls] American guy Nate with curly hair and brown eyes has only been learning Chinese in Kunming for half a year, but has already fallen in love with the gorgeous place. In the process of accumulating language knowledge, he is reaping a double harvest of friendship and love.
“I love Kunming. There are plenty of green trees and dancing seagulls in winter. I like climbing the West Mountain or jogging at Cuihu park in pare time. What a wonderful life here.” Nate is talking about his life in Kunming with a cheerful sound in fluent Chinese.
Nate and his sweet girlfriend.
Being welcomed by “strange” Yunnan cuisine
“Compared with muggy Shanghai, Kunming has a fresh and sunny summer, which makes me feel cool.” Nate was invited by a friend and came to Kunming for 3 days in the summer of 2016. That beautiful summer impressed him, as well as the unique Yunnan cuisine.
Nate was invited to his friend’s house for a dinner. “The table was full of dishes, including seven kinds of mushrooms and a plate of strange insects.” Nate looked at each dish that he had never seen before, and tried to figure out what they were. His friend, who is already familiar with Yunnan cuisine, pointed at the mushroom and said, “these mushrooms are Yunnan specialties, and can only be found in rainy season. This is fried bee pupae. You can’t miss this!”
“It looks a little bit gross, but it should be okay to eat,” Nate smiled and said. He picked up a pupa and almost looked through it. Without hesitation, he send the pupa into mouth and chewed up slowly. “It was my first time to eat a fired bee pupae. It tastes like fries with a little bit salty and crunchy.”
During that 3-day tour, Nate also visited the Yi village in Tuan Jie town. Looking at the beautiful Yi girls in national costumes, and listening to them chatting in Yi’s language, an idea came up in his mind. Nate said, “I like the minority culture in Yunnan, and I want to learn minority language when I can speak Chinese well.”
In fact, Nate has been attracted by Chinese culture since a few years ago. After completing bachelor degree in 2013, he has been to Shanghai to learn Chinese for two years, and successfully passed HSK level 5 which is a Chinese language proficiency test. His friends helped him to get a Chinese name, Fu Zidan, because he loves sports just like the Chinese celebrity Zhen Zidan.
Living like locals and making friends with different people
Perhaps the cool summer left Nate a great impression of Kunming, or that fried bee pupa opened the door of food world, Nate came to the city again and settled down in August 2017.
Wearing his brown curly hair, Nate rides a bike every morning and goes through Renmin Road to take Chinese classes. In order to speak Chinese fluently and to lay a foundation for minority language learning journey, he not only takes class at school, but also brushes up on Chinese with the help of a tutor at home.
Nate and his friends were climbing West Mountain.
After the class, Nate enjoys riding a bicycle across streets and alleys with his girlfriend. They find that people who live here tend to feel somewhat happier than those living in faster growing large-metropolitan areas. They encounter different lifestyle here, for example, some old people like sitting around the stone table and playing card or Chinese chess. A person cranks an old black popcorn stove and makes a “bang” sometime on the street. Just like locals do, Nate and girlfriend often go to a hot pot restaurant in dinner time, and eat a palatable mutton meal with mint and coriander.
“My girlfriend is American too. We met in our Chinese class. Coincidentally, we live in the same residential community.” On weekends, they usually go to Haigeng dam and feed seagulls, and climb to the top of West Mountain to see still Dianchi lake.
The best way to learn a foreign language is living in there and speaking with local people. Nate likes to talk with people he met, no matter he knows the person or not. When he goes to the market, he would say hello to Huajie who runs a egg stall. When he passes by the honey shop, he would go inside and chat with the owner, Mr. Yang. “If they spoke in dialect, then I can’t understand the meaning. I just know one sentence, ‘where are you going’,” Nate laughed, and mimicked Kunming dialect with his American accents.
Nate invited friends to celebrated the last Christmas.
The communication with neighbors urges a closer relationship between Nate and them. In the last Christmas, Nate invited Huajie and Mr. Yang to visit his home on Christmas Eve. Huajie brought a bunch of flowers, and Mr. Yang brought honey and Pu’er tea. It’s a little bit pity that Mr. Yang left early and he didn’t get Christmas gift from Nate.
This dinner let them become good friends, and made Nate felt relatives-like care in this foreign country. Nate went to market later, and sent gifts to his friends. Mr. Yang insisted on giving a jar of honey to Nate, and Huajie didn’t accept the egg money from Nate any more.
Sending warm greetings to homeless person “Kunming”
Among the people that Nate met in these six months, the most impressive one is “Kunming” who has the same name as the city. Speaking of the first day they met, Nate lowered his head and thought for 5 minutes.
That was a chill winter morning. People treading on leaves made some occasional rustle which broken the silence on the street. Nate, as usual, rode his bike to Chinese class. He saw a man begging on the side of the road. “A middle-aged man with a broken face squatted listlessly on the ground. He reached his twisted hands out to the passers-by.”
Nate thought that maybe no one would like to talk to such a homeless man who must have been very lonely. “But I had to go to my class. I just rode my bike and left,” Nate said.
The next day, Nate saw the man again in the same place. He slightly bent down and asked the man. “Can I sit with you ?” The man raised his head and looked at Nate. Nate sat down and talked with him for half an hour, and he learned the man’s name is Kunming.
Later, Nate invited Kunming to have a lunch together, and he would never forget what he heard. “Will you feel humiliated? ” Kunming said. “I don’t care how people think of me,” Nate recalled. “I just want to invite you for a meal.”
They went to a small restaurant and ate potato stewed rice. Kunming asked, “Why do you invite me for a lunch?” “I just want to know more about your life,” Nate said. Kunming was touched and cried, “no one wanted to know my life ever.”
Four years ago, the man’s face and hands were burned by an accident in Anhui province. He had stayed in home and never been outside since then, because he was afraid of people staring at him. One day, he decided to move to Kunming due to his same name as the city. “I’ve been trying to earn some money and start my own little shop here to save money for a surgery.” Kunming smiled and said.
After that meal, Nate still rode through Renmin Road to take class everyday, but he never saw the thin figure again on the street. Nate didn’t know where the man is. “Perhaps he already finds a better way to achieve his goal and makes his life easier,” Nate guessed.
Kunming is like a cup of bright tea for Nate, tasting fresh and sweet with a meaningful aftertaste. Although the city is less prosperous than Shanghai, in Nate’s mind, it gives him the most comfortable summer and romantic fall. More importantly, he meets a sweet girl here, and makes a group of bosom friends. He likes to live here and enjoys the beautiful spring city.
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(Editors: Christine, Rachel)
Patrick Nijs, a former ambassador farming in Dongchuan