Xiao-he and Xiao-maafan

“This could be Xiao-he.” I murmured as I walked toward the door.  

I guessed rightly. It was actually him—that droll of a man. He was oddly amusing. Xiao-he, (pronounced Shiao-ho) and literally translated as “small river”. His real name was Lee Chiang-I, but nicknamed Xiao-he by all his friends. He could make you laugh by whimsical, eccentric conduct. He was a short and plump person in his mid-fifties. He was bald-headed and had unusually large ears—for a Chinese. As he entered with is dog, I realized he wasn’t that character I knew. I could tell from his doleful face that he had experienced a great loss or was in serious trouble. He had been drinking with friends all day at a bar not far from my home. Xiaohe’s foibles included a tendency to spend more time with his dog at the expense of his family.

His dog was of a mongrel breed. It was huge, dark, had powerful limbs and long paws. Despite its size and darkness of color, it was a very friendly dog. He carried it in his car where ever he went. Xiao-he called his dog, Xiao-maafan (small trouble). His dog accompanied him to special occasions rather than his wife. He even boasted of bequeathing all of his property to his dog before his death. As far as Xiao-maafan was concerned, his wife and two children were second class.

   He called me Lao-hey, translated as black foreigner. He wasn’t racist. He would narrate to me how hard-working the Chinese people are. He pointed proudly to what made Taiwan what it is today. Fifty years ago, according to him, he couldn’t afford three square meals, and now, he has become a proud land owner and an owner of a Mercedes saloon car. He predicted that there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when the Chinese language will become a compulsory subject in many schools around the world—especially in Africa. One of his wildest predictions was that, in time the Chinese language will become the lingua franca of those people wanting to get ahead in trade and commerce.

To be continued…