There’s nothing like a good listener. One who really understands what you’re trying to say. You look into their eyes and know that there is a connection. They’re not thinking of what to say next, or looking over your shoulder, or checking their phone. I’ve found that Chinese are remarkably good listeners with a natural curiosity. You’ll find that they ask intelligent questions and prod deeper if they find something amiss or out of place with what you’re saying.
Then there are the over 65s. I’ve met a few that were university educated and once held professional positions. They are great to chat with as they can form their own opinions and don’t believe all the propaganda promulgated via the media. However the majority of this generation had a fairly tough time growing up and missed out on many opportunities that the later generations enjoyed. The old Li Wan District, where this blog is set, is home to many true-blue elderly Cantonese. They’re loud, brash, and don’t give a hoot about politics. They’re interested in more pressing problems like home economics (the price of this week’s cauliflower) or helping family members. Many cannot communicate well in Mandarin.
I’ve included a conversation with a grandmother that occurred in Lift B last week. She was bringing her granddaughter home. We’ve known each other for about three years and it made me question our entire history together (translated from Mandarin):
KJ (me): Hi, long time no see!
Gran: Ha ha, long time no see!
KJ: I see your granddaughter has just finished school for the day.
Gran: Yes, she’s finished school for the day.
KJ: How are her studies progressing?
KJ: That’s good. I saw her old kindergarten classmate recently. Actually I teach him nowadays – Chen Han Ling, remember him? He’s still very naughty.
KJ: What are your plans now? Is there lot’s of homework to do?
KJ: (confused and getting out of the lift) Um… bye.
Gran: Ha, ha, bye.
I don’t think she understood a word of mine. I don’t think she has ever understood a word of mine. Ah (he writes sobbingly), to think of those many wasted moments with her discussing metaphysics, game theory, theology, and the existential meaning of life….