Wandering with only a barebones plan allows for the unexpected to occur. Recently 2 new MTR stops opened — Ho Man Tin and Whampoa. Since I haven’t visited either area yet, I grabbed my camera and a couple lenses and went exploring.
Whampoa’s Got Puppies
My first impression of Whampoa was the relaxed atmosphere. Kids running and shouting with their friends. A small child playing with empty water bottles as aunties and uncles and mom and dad gathered in a circle to watch. And of course, some big dogs.
Near my place I’ll see more of the purse-sized puppies. Chihuahuas and such. Not in Whampoa. This striking white dog captured attention in three ways — having super-fluffy white fur, walking in circles looking for a bathroom spot, and barking at other dogs. At least a dozen people gathered to watch the show.
After all that excitement, I was ready for some spicy noodles.
Da Wen’s Story
My weakness for spicy noodles means that once I’ve found a suitable restaurant, I feel compelled to try them out. I parted the plastic barrier ribbons and told the waitress it was just me. She pointed to the table near the door and I sat down.
Since I was outside the areas typically frequented by foreigners, the staff selected their best English-speaker to take my order. This is a common practice I’ve encountered many times. I grabbed the menu and by the time I looked up the diswasher — now my server — seemingly materialized before me.
Since I had my Chinese lesson earlier in the day, I felt like getting in some practice and therefore ordered in Chinese.
My server, Da Wen (not his real name), took my order. I had the pork joint rice noodle, medium-spicy, and an iced milk tea.
Everything seemed pretty standard until I said thank you in Cantonese (one of the few words I know). Da Wen’s eyes lit up, and he began to tell me his story.
When Da Wen was younger, he was in school. This is where he was learning English. But his parents urged him to get a job, so he stopped going to school and started working.
He’s been working for 10 years. During this part of the conversation, Da Wen taught me a new word in Chinese — 坚强 [jian1 qiang4], be strong, the idea of having an iron will — and I could see on his face that things weren’t easy for him.
Da Wen stood at my table throughout the rest of my time at the restaurant, only taking short breaks to clear a table or wash some dishes. He asked about my work and how long I had been taking Chinese lessons. When he spoke too quickly, I asked him to repeat. He did this graciously.
At the end, he invited me to return and bring my friends. When I finished my meal, I stood and saw him washing in the back. I waved him forward and asked if I could take his picture. We stepped outside and I snapped a quick photo.
下次见。 See you next time, Da Wen said. 再见。 Good bye, I replied.