As the mother described to us the relationship between Buddhism and academic research, her children drove plastic cars over (and stuck stickers to) our arms.
Chase and I had intended our trip to 鼓浪屿’s (Gulangyu- the island across the strait) 麦当劳 (McDonald’s), the architectural embodiment of the Rococo artistic movement, for 提拉米苏口味的麦放风 (tiramisu flavored McFlurries) to be culinary only (in China, going to McDonald’s actually is a pricy and somewhat higher quality endeavor), but a fortuitous seating choice put us in the path of two energetic and adorable toddlers. After discussing feet and siblings with the daughter, I found myself become the terrain of an especially loud Spongebob-themed boat with wheels. Despite being a road, I was able to multitask and discuss my education with the five year old boy and three year old girl’s curious parents. I surprised even myself, holding a very thorough and extensive conversation about my history learning Chinese, the purpose of my being in China, the nature of Chinese as an academic subject, and most importantly, what the chick I was with was up to if she wasn’t speaking Chinese. The mother was incredibly impressed with Chase, because she is doing research in Thailand, a very Buddhist country. The mother asked if I’d visited Nan Pu Tou Si (the campus temple), to which I replied in the affirmative– she then told Chase that she was a Buddha for doing Environmental Science research (as not that many people in China did that sort of thing) and that her Buddhist master had instructed her to live according to the word of Buddha, which meant kindness, so she gave each of us special prayer bracelets that she’d been wearing on her wrists. Her children then deemed us worthy of a variety of fruits, which the mother told us were Taiwanese in origin as we found them pushed emphatically towards our bodies. I attempted to decline, as I didn’t know if the parents actually wanted their children distributing their belongings, but the parents and children insisted that we keep them. Eventually, the parents asked for our emails, and left us, shocked and blessed with bracelets and fruit and stickers, in an establishment usually devoid of spiritual meaning.