Just a Few Days to Go + Mr. Pei Update
I just looked down and noticed that I still have my Paper Source badge on my sweater. I think that is appropriate based on the feelings of the city over the last week. When I walked in this morning, there was a few heated conversations about how the locals are on edge. Fortunately for me, I am on there for four hour shifts, so I never fully experience the pains of a very long day on your feet, trying to help people the best you can, despite how they feel walking in store.
On Monday, I was on my morning walk and decided that I wanted to check out why the entire street was closed off. I was pretty certain that someone important was coming. With the missing cars, the streets were quiet. All you could hear were the click of heels as people made their way to work. A guy on a bike rode by and said, “You know who’s coming. Obama’s coming.” It almost seemed metaphoric. It was like we were all quiet and waiting for someone to come in and save us from this horrible mess of an uncertain future and economic strife. Our knight in shining armor.
But he never came up to F Street. I noticed a presidential caravan down on Pennsylvania and realized that they had blocked out a second path way, which they never had to take. I don’t know who was in the caravan, but I have never witnessed this additional precaution.
For anyone who lives in DC, strict security and additional precautions fill our lives these days. Listing of street closures, bridge closures, advisories to prepare like you would a hurricane, the list goes on. So I think that people are ready, nervous and excited. One of the most excited people I have talked to this week was Mr. Pei, my Tai Chi teacher.
During my first trimester, I was too hungry to make it to Tai Chi. By the time I had my energy back, I had to spend every chance I could working on my tobacco project. But I have committed to regularly attending Tai Chi once again. I have even started eating lunch much earlier just to make sure I can make it through the hour without starving.
Last week, I announced to my Tai Chi class that I was pregnant and that’s why I was gone. While my classmates were excited and asking me questions, Mr. Pei did not flinch. He continued to talk about heart, mind, soul, spirit. Tracey even told him in Chinese that I was having a baby. After class, he told me that doing Tai Chi would make my baby even more beautiful than me. So I think that he got it. Fortunately my growing belly will remind him over the coming months.
Yesterday I asked him about his birthday. Last January, we celebrated his 87th birthday. We missed his 88th birthday, which is good luck in Chinese*. But he cut me short. He didn’t want to talk about his birthday. He told me, “The President sent me a card.” He was so proud. He pulled out his little card case and showed me the top plastic card with his name printed on it. It was a card from the Democratic National Committee. He then continued to tell me that “Tai Chi also means change, just like the president.” And with that he smiled. Now if we can get everyone to practice Tai Chi. I am certain that Mr. Pei hopes so.
Eighty-eight (88) symbolizes fortune and good luck since the word 8 sounds similar to the word F? (?, which implies ??, or wealth, in Mandarin). The number 8 is considered to be the luckiest number of all in Chinese culture and prices in Chinese supermarkets can often be found containing many 8’s, See Numbers in Chinese culture. The Chinese government has even been auctioning auto license plates containing many 8s for tens of thousands of dollars. The 2008 Beijing Olympics opened on 8/8/08 at 8 p.m.
88 is used to mean “bye bye”; Found in Chinese-language chat, text, SMS, IM. 88 is pronounced in Chinese Mandarin language as “ba ba” (“b? b?” to be precise), simulating the sound of the English language farewell “bye bye”.