Maria Holland

Meet Mob Boss

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2010 at 11:52 pm

It was a cold rainy day in Hunchun and I was comfortable under my heavy mink blanket, so I slept past 8.  When I got downstairs, the kids were doing some schoolwork with Naomi, and I watched Lyte work on phonics.  He read bed, set, ten, and pen all by himself, and the look of wonder he had on his face reminded me of the time he learned what an eraser was for. 

Lyte and the older girls all remember me, which is pretty cool.  Apparently the reason I have not been forgotten is because of Maria the Dinosaur:

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Named after me because the resemblance is striking, no?

Truth, the boy who was born during my second stay at this house, has finally warmed up to me.  I remember him as a tiny newborn and saw him again around 6 months, but he obviously had no recollection of me.  But we roughhoused a little bit today and I finally have a name: ‘ia.  Close enough, I say!  We cuddled while we listened to Miriam read aloud to us. 

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Around 11 I called a taxi to take me into town.  I went to HuoMen Light Fixtures, where Xiao Zhang and Xiao Li were working, and hung around there until they got off work.  The sound of the chopsaw tearing through steel, the distinctive flash of welding, and the overpowering scent of shop made me really nostalgic.  The two years since my summer on the farm have not been nearly hands-on enough, but I was instantly reminded of the desire I once had to go to welding school.  Turns out the desire’s still there . . .

At 11:30, Mob Boss and his wife picked us up in his fancy (new!!) car to go to lunch.  Allow me to introduce Mob Boss – Chinese name 王洋.  He’s the owner of a DVD shop in town – our favorite DVD shop, as it was a short walk from Crazy Mart and the only place in town to buy a 16-disk set of 100+ Disney movies for $20.  We went there almost every night we went into town, and between the dozen of us usually spent a few hundred kuai.  One time we went, Mob Boss was there and, between the novelty of having foreigners in his store and the amount of money we had spent there, took a liking to us.  He took group pictures of us and printed them out for us. 

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He started driving us home in his really nice car after our visits to his shop.  This is how he got his nickname – that kind of car does not come from a small DVD shop, at least not before we started patronizing it.  We figured it was a front to some shady dealings, so we dubbed him Mob Boss. 

When we left, he gave me a business card and instructions to call him when we came back to town.  So . . . I did.  Four months later when I came back on another assessment trip, I braved the terror that is making phone calls in Chinese and called him up; he gave us presents and drove us home.  Somewhere along the line he’s moved up from a DVD store owner to a friend, and on this trip back, he was definitely on the list of people I wanted to see.  All the people I know in Hunchun know each other (cause or effect?), so it shouldn’t have been surprising that Xiao Li and Mrs. Mob Boss know each other, and the five of us made a date to go to lunch.

We went to hot pot, possibly my last time during this year in China (as the weather for this has long since passed in Xiamen but is still in full swing in Hunchun).  They ordered way more meat than we usually do, plus a new broth, some great tofu, and a kind of 饼 (pastry?) that I’ve never had before.  There was rousing conversation throughout the meal, more than making up for the 3 hours of Oral class and 3 hours of Listening class that I’m missing during this trip.

After lunch, we took Xiao Zhang and Xiao Li back to work and I went with the Mob Bosses to her store.  She sells beds – special heated beds, bed with massage, beds that have healing powers.  This may help explain the car, haha! 

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We went into her office, where they insisted that I rest on one of their heated beds.  Well, if you insist . . . it was quite pleasant, to say the least, and I awoke about three hours later feeling well-rested and only a little bit guilty.

They closed at 5, then we made the rounds of town in their car, picking up things for dinner (including Xiao Li).  We snacked on strawberries and nuts and wine while he cooked, then feasted on steak, enormous crab (that tried, but failed, to walk out of their pot), bean sprouts, egg-‘n-onion, fried tofu, and sugared tomatoes.  Basically, I haven’t been un-full since lunch!

Dinner’s conversation was even more interesting.  Xiao Zhang and Mob Boss are really pushing the idea of me finding a Chinese husband.  He’ll cook, they say, and his mother can watch our kids.  Maybe on the next trip, I say . . .

Also, we discussed the etiquette associated with hosting in our cultures.  They have the idea that Americans aren’t very good hosts, but I said that it’s just a cultural difference – and that sometimes the behavior of Chinese hosts can come off as too strong.  Sometimes it feels like coercion, I said!  They really seemed to understand, and thereafter actually listened to me when I said I couldn’t eat any more!

Mob Boss drove me home to the farm afterwards, but the gate was locked so I had to walk the last part by myself.  It was a special feeling, picking my way carefully over the familiar path, dodging unfamiliar potholes and puddles.  The warm farmhouse ahead of me with a single window illuminated, and a car full of friends behind me.  I was alone – alone enough to hear the sounds of night life on the farm – but I knew that with a single phone call, Xiao Zhang would run to my side. 

But I made it home fine by myself.  How could I get lost on memory lane?  You just walk around the new gate, pass the workers’ house, go under the bridge, walk by the ditch we pulled the taxi out of, turn right at the bridge I drove the motorcycle off, and you’re home! 

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  1. Maria, I love you and I am enjoying this walk down memory lane with you… but falling asleep for 3 hours?! In a store!?!

  2. Maria – your blogs from the farm have been fabulous!

    Despite what your mom said, your 3-hr nap in th estore made me proud. The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree! And can you PLEASE ask Mob Boss(es) if I can get a discount on a special heated bed, a bed with massage, or a bed that has healing powers? (Don’t know if they are all the same thing, or not).

    I wonder, does Mob Boss know what his nickname is?

  3. Why do the kids call the toy “Maria the Dinosaur”? Is it because dinosaurs are freakishly tall like you?

  4. Your ending was perfect! I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry, so I kinda did both. I miss you…

  5. I’ve been missing you all year. Of course after you return, I’ll be missing your blog.

    This blog has become a wonderful memoir.

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