Friday, July 02, 2010

Pan Ting

Last summer, living in the neighborhood, Z and I had the opportunity to make several Chinese friends. You may have read Z's posts about Xiao Didi and Xiao Gainan (fondly known as Xiao Pengyou, or "little friend"), so now it's time for my Pan Ting story.

Pan Ting (the middle girl in the accompanying photograph) was my first friend in Yan Bei Yuan. She too was fourteen and in 8th grade. I didn't meet her until the summer last year because she was going to school in the village where her dad works and then came to Beijing for the summer (where her mother lives adjacent to the neighborhood public bathroom). But as soon as we did meet, we spent almost every evening walking through the park with a few of the other neighborhood girls, getting to know each other. Even when Z and I were homeschooling, Pan Ting and Z's friends would come and call up to our window every day to see if we could come outside. Of course, most of those days we had to wait until after we were done with our lessons, but Pan Ting and I still spent hours last summer talking.

Now leaving China did leave me with some doubts as to if and/or when I would ever see Pan Ting again. She doesn't have a computer or e-mail and so the only thing I could give her was my Chinese cell phone number. Returning a year later, my only hope was that Pan Ting would come back to Beijing for the summer.

Well, our first days in Yan Bei Yuan showed no signs of a Pan Ting/Julie reunion. But I was still hopeful. We were thinking she might not get out of school until July 1st. So I waited patiently.

One day, while we were eating mala tang in Saoziying, we saw Pan Ting's mom. I went over to see her and found out that Pan Ting has stopped going to school (permanently) and now works at the Wu Mei (a convenience store in the neighborhood). Z and I ran to go see her immediately, and found her working the cash register and dressed in an oversized red uniform shirt.

After her shift ended at 8:30pm, I finally was able to catch up with Pan Ting (we went on our usual walk through the park). She told me all about these rumors she had heard about our return and how much she had hoped they were true.

It's good to be back!



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