A lot of really 'Karama' things have been going on since I started this blog. I'm talking about the dead carcass on the footpath, the hydroponics for sale on the noticeboard at the local shops, and that time I made the local talkback radio for pulling two roaming pig dogs off Leo (our Lion of a dog) when they pinned him down and started eating him. There have also been a few interactions with locals that I don't want to go into detail about because I don't want to start a turf war.
But. I will tell you about this one lady. Because we walk to the shops for groceries (note the absence of the brand name) most mornings, we also pass a lot of the same people en-route. One of my favourite characters is this vivacious, older (than me) Chinese lady who is always doing laps of the park, and a few reps on the resistance machines for good measure. We started making friends by waving and smiling, but now we stop and chat every time. Given her thick accent, and that she sometimes asks me what the words are for things, I presume English is her second language. She is a total darling.
First, you have to feel for this lady. She is totally in love with Matisse, always telling me how beautiful and sweet she is, and all she wants is a smile... but will Matisse give her one? Not a fat chance in hell. Matisse hides her face behind her hands, scrunches up her lips and eyes or just burrows down her eyebrows so far that her entire face vanishes. This is a combination of her distinct absence to people please, and a good dose of shyness. This lovely lady is so caught up trying to muster a tiny grin from Matisse that it takes a giggle from the backseat to break the trance, she then casts a look sideways and notices little Elspeth beaming up the most loving smile to reward her efforts.
"Oh he so happy," she says.
"Yeah," I say, not wanting to correct her when most babies look like boys until they grow hair.
"Is he a boy?" Well... I can't ignore that.
"No, she is a girl." I say.
"But, she looks like a boy."
"Ha ha, yeah she does" I say, hoping Elsie doesn't remember this when she grows up.
"She look like a boy, but she a girl," says the lady. She squeezes Elspeth's cheeks, "I think you a boy, but you a girl." Elsie is just grinning away with her big boyish smile.
With the genders of the kids sorted, we proceed. But then, the next time we see her, this happens again. No jokes! We had variations of this conversation at least once a week, for about two months. Once her friend was even there agreeing. No matter how hard she wanted Elsie to be a boy, she just kept on being a girl. One time, she had taken Elsie out for a cuddle and seized the moment to remind me "I always think she boy, but she girl. Now you have to have boy." It turns out that in China, your husband gets angry if you have a girl. She was speaking from experience. Perhaps Karl is being nice, pretending to be happy with girls.
Matisse has fallen in love with this woman, and she is always banging on about 'the lady in the park' until we see her, then Matisse goes silent. Then the split second we leave she speaks about her the whole way home... "Where the lady go? Where the lady in the park? We see her tomorrow, hey Lani." Repeat. Last week, the lady practically fainted when Matisse not only started waving at her, but then smiled, and talked!! But ever since then, Matisse does a small smile, then hides. It's like classical conditioning because now this woman is working even harder for it.
One morning as I enter the park, I noticed two men swigging from their 'soft drink' bottles at 8am.
"Hello Miss," said one man. I wasn't sure if the earth was shifting on its axis or he was swaying; so I rudely presumed it was probably not soft drink in those bottles. I said "G'day," and kept walking.
We approached the lady and stopped for our morning chat.
"You see the mans?" she asked me.
"I'm scared. They ask me for sex."
"Yeah, they say, hello, I want sex you. But I say, no, I hab husband, I hab husband. I cannot not hab sex."
I was so mad. I told her to kick them if they came near her. They were so drunk they would definitely lose balance and fall over. Later on, I laughed out loud when reflecting on the conversation; because of her broken English, it seemed like the only reason she couldnt have sex was the fact she had a husband, and not the fact it was totally revolting and perhaps she didn't want to. Furthermore, it's comforting to know that seedy men in Karama are well mannered gentlemen that respect the institution of marriage. Incidentally, I have never seen these guys again. They were probably from Malak. Only fake baddies hang out in Karama.