“Okay, I want to take you to play my favorite game here in town,” he said. “We call it Road Rage,” Jeff grinned.
We both gave him inquisitive looks.
He walked over to a built-in closet and opened the door.
“But first we need these,” he said
B and I peered into the closet and watched as he pulled out…. a gun?
Sure enough, along with the clothes, shoes, and backpacking paraphernalia, were several guns of various sizes. It reminded me of my Daddy’s gun cabinet back home in south Louisiana – only these were plastic air guns.
“Some of the other guys and I found these in the market,” he explained, picking out two pistols and stuffing them in his backpack. “They work great for warding off rats in the dorm,” he continued. “But they’re also great for playing Road Rage… do you like go-karts?”
Are you kidding me?
I, for the record, love go-karts. (I even drove one when I was pregnant with Carson – shh, don’t tell.)
I tried not to act too giddy.
We followed him out of his room, and out the dormitory gate, and meandered back to the school entrance where we were happy to find a small red cab, waiting for passengers. Following Jeff’s lead, we piled inside the dusty backseat of the cab.
Without turning around, the driver inquired in a gravely voice, “shemma?”
Jeff rattled off something in Mandarin, and we were off, racing down the dirt road that lead from the university back to the newer, busier part of town.
There are no seat-belts in Chinese cabs. And sometimes there seem to be no traffic rules, either, as drivers speed, and then stop fast, or whip around another car or pedestrian – and everyone honks. Constantly. But even this early in my China-season, I was accustomed to public transportation, and just held on for the ride.
We soon stopped and jumped back out of the cab while Jeff paid the driver. The establishment looked nothing like Celebration Station, or any other similar place in the States. It was just a concrete lot with some beat-up go-karts and some tires and concrete blockades. I was pretty sure it was not at all safe, and I was anxious to get behind the wheel.
Jeff explained the rules of the game, which were ridiculously simple:
Aim at your opponent.
Oh, and try not to wreck the go-kart.
If memory serves me right, I believe Jeff offered to let us ladies go first. Then it was B vs. the Tall Tour Guide. Then I was up again. Jeff was in one kart, and I was in another… since it wasn’t exactly a race to the finish, we put some distance between us and then Jeff started shooting pellets my direction. I was laughing so hard I could barely keep the steering steady, but I held tight and shot a few pellets in his direction, fairly certain that one of them hit him. Then he reeled around and shot me right in the leg!
By the end I just couldn’t contain my laughter. If this guy’s assignment had been to help us have a good day and some stress relief, he had certainly met his goal.
We decided to park the go-karts and head off by foot to the older part of town. My face hurt from laughing so hard.
“I want to take you to my favorite restaurant in Old Town,” he said. “They have the best chicken schnitzel and they even have chocolate banana milkshakes.”
Well, count me in!
It would take a while to walk into Old Town, and Jeff started up conversation again, somehow getting B and me to tell him stories of our life in New Orleans,… how we had become friends,… what the seminary was like… what we liked to do in our free time. I talked more than I did earlier in the day, but still let B take the lead, since she is so funny, and much more entertaining. Jeff laughed at our stories and asked more questions as we weaved around hundreds of locals, cut through alleys, and crossed streets.
We followed him across a major intersection to get to the large sidewalk leading to the entrance of Old Town. We kept walking and talking. We passed the giant water wheel and along with the sound of rushing water, I began to hear the melody of the flute-like folk music coming from Old Town shops. The concrete beneath our feet became cobblestone as we left the busy-ness of New Town. One of the things I love about Old Town is that everyone is on foot. It’s a rule. You cannot drive a car or ride a bike in Old Town; you must walk.
And walk we did, but not much farther.
A few minutes after hitting cobblestone, we slowed our pace, and Jeff came to a stop, proudly extending his arm towards the place, to show we had arrived.
“This is my favorite restaurant in Old Town,” he said with a grin. Like every place around it, Jeff’s favorite restaurant was a small, rugged, split-level wooden structure. It was old and quaint. A small stream separated the building from the street, and we walked across a small wooden walkway, into the restaurant.
Jeff said something to the smiling waiter, (he was probably the cook and the owner as well) and then headed up the steep wooden steps to the upper level. B and I followed, and then sat with him at table on the balcony, overlooking the stream below.
B smiled at me and looked happy to be there and I silently agreed. I loved the setting, and thought I couldn’t be in a happier place.
I had no idea how the conversation about to take place would change my life forever.
… to be continued…