Zhang is a random Chinese person, I meet him everyday. Sometimes he’s a man, sometimes she’s a woman. Sometimes old, sometimes young. Sometimes she drives a taxi, sometimes he’s a cashier. Zhang is everyone.
One day, I walk into Zhang’s store to buy some groceries. After finding my head far up in the sky Zhang’s eyes quickly fall to the floor, as if to see if I might be standing on something. While I buy my things Zhang whispers and gestures indiscreetly to his co-workers to check out the foreigner. I walk across to the checkout counter and Zhang starts conversing with me while bagging my things.
—You’re very tall, he tries.
—I know, I reply coldly.
—Are you two meters?
—Yes, two meters two centimeters.
—Wow, so tall.
Zhang goes on to tell his co-workers how tall I am, and then asks the same question Zhang always asks.
—Do you play basketball?
—No, I don’t play basketball. I don’t like the ball and the ball doesn’t like me, I reply trying to be funny.
—Such a waste, Zhang sighs and moves on to ask where I’m from. I tell him where I’m from. He looks impresed and continues talking, but I soon interrupt him.
—No, Switzerland has good watches, I come from Sweden. We don’t make watches in Sweden, and not famous chocolate either. Zhang looks slightly puzzled.
—Sweden is in the north of Europe.
—Oh, Sweden was it? Zhang seems to realize his mistake, but I’m not sure if he really knows where northern Europe is.
—How long have you been here, Zhang proceeds to ask.
—Hmm… seven or eight months.
—Wow, you’re Chinese is so good
—Oh not at all, my Chinese is far from good, I say while secretly smiling.
—Hehe, you’ve learned Chinese modesty too, Zhang mutters.
Zhang has individually bagged the toothbrush and the instant noodles, and now puts the two bags into a third bag. I hand over the money and we say goodbye. Tomorrow I will meet another Zhang in some restaurant and we will have the same conversation all over again…