Mr. Lyn and Mr. Win are outside my bedroom. Their shouts are layered with mutters which are layered with annoyance.
Every few minutes, Mr. Lyn pauses, turns to me and says, “I sorry…He asshole.” He then continues to yell at his friend as I stand in my doorway, watching the conversation escalate into volleying insults, and I’m unsure if I’m needed for questions anymore.
“I’m just…going to…” I almost whisper.
“Ok-Ok-Ok-Ok!” Mr Lyn finishes my thought for me and starts to close the door. “Yes, yes, of course,” he insists before the door clicks shut. I go back to my desk to lesson plan before the light of my laptop turns on and off. The muffled sounds of their growls replaces my midwestern Wilco music.
Mr. Lyn pops his head into my room.
“Is it now?”
I check the outlets and the aircon.
“Ugh… Sorry…Sorry…He asshole. Not…” He gestures to himself before re-closing the door. I smile at the word asshole. My school director’s Chinglish is superb. I sit, staring at the blank pages of my notebook as the lights flicker. On. Off. On. Off. Strobing to the beat of their elevating words.
Mr. Lyn’s apologies are constant, and he offers to fix my door handle while Mr. Win pokes at some wires. At some point, Mr. Win stops for a moment, mumbles something, and lights up a cigarette in my living room. He shakes his fist at Mr. Lyn, who sighs and shakes his head.
“Ah! Hao le!” Mr Lyn brandishes his handiwork. “It’s good.” He waggles the door handle, displaying the sturdiness. I give him a thumbs up, and he affirms with a nod. Mr Win is back prodding at the wires, and the cycle continues for tens of minutes.
Speakers. On and off.
“Is it good?”
Laptop on and off.
“Is it good?”
Still no cold air either. I can’t tell if they spend more time arguing or working on the fuse box. Their Wuhanese slurs together, so heightened and intense that can’t extract much except for the occasional “NA GE! NA GE! THAT ONE!” I listen but my elementary Mandarin is futile in the midst of angry sixty year old men.
About an hour later, I hear: “Hao! Hao-hao-hao-hao-le!”
Is it good?
I turn the fan on and off. Check the green light on my laptop.
“It’s good!” I smile, ready to pass out high-fives and sing praises.
“Mmm…” A small satisfied smirk crosses Mr Lyn’s face. He gives me a single nod, and turns to the electrician Mr Win with a raised eyebrow. The electrician rolls his eyes, and starts to pack up his tools.
“Xie xie, xie xie.” I pat Mr Lyn on the arm, and he bows his head.
“No problem, no problem,” he says.
Mr. Win, who has not spoken to me since arriving, stands at the doorway and waves to me.
“Bye-bye!” he says.
These little moments are exactly why I moved here. Moments that can be utterly frustrating without a little sense of humour, but completely delightful when viewed through the lens of a smile.
My school director left with the electrician, and five minutes later he returned to make sure the power hadn’t gone out again because he had just seen my neighbours lights flicker on, and off due to the torrential downpour. The kindness of people touches me.
This is why I love China. It is good.