Ni Hao!

In 2001, I found myself walking down the streets of QuFu, China, hometown of Confucius. We turned a corner past the affluent university neighborhood and in one step, tumbled into another world – I felt like Dorothy waking up from the world of Oz. Men on loud, bustling street corners playing checkers, people cooking, cleaning, sewing on the sidewalk, growing food on coffee table size plots of nearly depleted dirt, cooking and selling barbecue on the street. An old man sat shelling peas in front of a ramshackle home while next to him others baked bread by smacking dough onto the inside of a cylindrical, coal burning oven. Without thinking, I sat down next to him, picked some peas out of his basket, and began to shell them. He smiled and nodded, we exchanged “Ni hao” (hello), my only Chinese word at the time, but soon to be followed by “xie xie” (thank you) and “pijiu” (beer). I don’t know why I felt compelled to shell peas at that moment with a stranger, but throwing myself into new experiences is one of the things that gets me up in the morning. There is ground to be gained by staying on, working, and honing our own personal edge and learning to follow intuitive notions. Work, shared experience, nods and smiles; we humans have a core that wants to share, to accept, to belong. My partner turned on the video camera and I was suddenly the only one shelling peas. The entire neighborhood came running out of their homes and shops. As a foodie, she wanted to document their bread making and cooking on the coal stove; they wanted to see themselves appear magically and famously on the little LCD screen. Everybody got to see themselves. An hour later we had some great video, and a bag full of bread was handed to us by the baker. We all exchanged smiles and shared a look into our commonly human eyes that might well have been a long, lingering, full body hug to the human community. Ni hao.

Published by Paul Jay

Author, hands-on, minds-on, off-grid

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