Chris is a Canadian guy I met in the gym. As a matter of fact, it was not the first time I saw him but we did chat for the first time. The gym was nearby our office and I went there once a week. I found him every time I was there. He was a tall guy with a strongly-built body and curly hair, really a Triton among the Minnows in the gym, partly because of his big figure and partly of being one of the few foreigners there. We’d never talked to each other before that day, but I did notice this weird guy. I always managed to hold my laughters at seeing him doing some physical exercises with various equipment in the room. When he worked on one, he seemed to to consume up all his energy on it. He did it fairly quick, gasping heavily, and sometimes bellowing like a beast. or hissing like a snake. Every time I saw this, I just couldn’t help chuckling and saying to myself,” Oh,man! Can he stay healthy if he rushes headlong into it? He’s just torturing himself! Or he must be one of the Hieronymites as in Da Vinci Code!”
After exercising with those equipments, I went to the swimming pool for a while. As I was a terrible swimmer and it was so weird that it just could in no way interest me. Twenty minutes later, I jumped out of the pool and went to the Sauna chamber. The guy was there.
The chamber was quite small and we sat there, almost shoulder by shoulder. To break the embarrassing silence, I tried to start a chat with him.
“Hi, nice to see you..”
“Huh huh, me, too.” …….Some routine formalities.
“Where are you from?”…..Another routine question.
” Oh, I’ ve been doing business with some Canadian cutomers now. Which city?”
“Oh, really? I’m from Calgary.”
” My! I can’t believe it!”, I exclaimed,” Really a small world! Our customers are in Calgary and I was there last September!”
” Wow! How interesting!”
Then our conversations expanded to the city of Calgary, the picturesque Banff National Forest Park, and our jobs. Before Chris came to China, he was a journalist in Canada. In 1997 he came to China working for UNDP as a coordinator. Now he’s been in China for nine years. He was around the same age as me and I found it really easy for us to get something interesting to chat about.
I asked him if he could speak Chinese now that he’d been here for such a long time, and the guy blushed and told me that he was quite slow in learning Chinese. Such a long time had he stayed here, he could only speak very limited sentences, according to what he put it, some survival stuff. He could order dishes in restaurants, bargain in the market, but he could never talk about Confucius with you. At my repeated requests, Chris said something in Chinese, in broken sentences. He told me how surprised those taxi drivers at him when they learned he’d stayed in Beijing for such a long time while still speaking so poor Chinese. As he said so, I could see his face blushing, maybe because of such a shame, or of the hot steam in the chamber.
We even found our offices were quite close to each other. As it was such an inconvenient place to tell him my cell phone number, I promised him to give him my name card next time when I saw him. The guy was easy-going with a very agreeable personality. Maybe we can have a drink together soon–there are some good bars near our office, though. It was indeed an interesting meeting.
Nice to meet you, Chris!