As soon as I got to work this morning, I began receiving invites after invites on MSN messenger to add a "(red heart) China" next to my name on the messenger. Apparently people all over China are doing this today to show solidarity in face of foreign media's recent antagonism against China.
I didn't add the red heart to my name, feeling not particularly patriotic this week.
I read my friend Lisa's blog entry on her road trip in California. That made my heart aching for the Central Valley which I had driven through so many times. Yet when my friend Jeff skyped from San Francisco and asked when I would move back to the US, I said I couldn't yet; even if I could, there's all that jazz in Beijing that I couldn't leave behind.
In the evening I read another friend's blog entry on her husband's appeal being denied. It reminded me of my sister's ordeal two years ago. I noticed the drizzle that had lasted all day and realized that my heart had been damp too.
In the office at 10pm, two of my colleagues noticed my MSN messenger did not have enough red hearts.
"You are not patriotic enough," one girl giggled. Then she began talking with the other girl about how every single friend of theirs was doing the red heart China today, about how the foreigners so misunderstood China. "They think Chinese men still wear queues and Chinese people are very rude. Yet they have no idea how advanced China has progressed."
They nodded at each other in complete agreement.
I wanted to defend the clueless "foreigners" but I quickly remembered there exist too many clueless foreigners just like that. Moreover, I didn't want to get into one more argument about patriotism and the reason of my lack thereof.
I msn'ed with my sister before I left office at 11pm. She said I read the friend's blog too. She said I would have gone crazy if I were in her shoes. That hopelessness. That lawlessness. That rottenness beneath the surface.
I jumped into one of the cabs waiting outside the office building; cabs had better business at this hour for everyone working late pass 9pm could get their cab fare reimbursed by the company. The driver had a heavy Sichuanese accent. I asked if he was from Sichuan. He said yeah, are you? I said yes.
His Sichuanese accent was different from mine--though only a true Sichuanese would be able to tell that--still it made me feel close. I asked why he had travelled so far to drive a cab in Hangzhou. He said he'd been working in Hangzhou for 10 years as a migrant worker before cabbing. He said life now was much easier except for his messed up sleep schedule due to his night cab shift.
When I handed him my 10 yuan cab fare, he inquired with big smiles piled on his endearing wrinkled face: "Do you need a receipt of bigger sum for reimbursement?"
That made my heart warm--only a true compatriot would offer that chance to fleece the company! Living in China, I realized once again, gave me chances everyday to enjoy that closeness of my people, to tell the subtle differences in us being Chines--accents and all--and to love my people because we share the same blood despite the illusions of shiny gaming exterior and the jingoism much contrary to my taste.
I Heart China.