“Gou-bu-gou le?” My new landlord was pointing at the thin blanket-pad she had put on the bed as a mattress, asking if it was going to be enough.

“Bu gou le,” I answered, telling her it was not good enough. My two house mates would need real mattresses. We bargained for a while, me trying to convince her we needed better mattresses and a closet in which to put our clothes. The 4 of us girls on our team had finally scored an apartment, but it was unfurnished. However, a deal had been worked out to pay a little extra for the land lord to furnish it. Trying to scrape by on the bare minimum, she was arguing that the closet space we had was already adequate. My language ability is so limited, but I was trying with all my effort to stand up for our welfare. I flashed back to my first few days in Asia two years ago; I could barely say a few phrases back then. WOW, I’ve come a long way!

The next day our land lord showed up with a brand new wardrobe and 2 new mattresses! I guess I had communicated adequately. She walked around our new apartment, explaining about this or that; I showed her the new sheets we had bought to go on the beds. And then in the course of conversation she started using words associated with our
faith. I was hearing words like “worship”, “Bible”, and “Jesus”. At first I couldn’t believe my ears and told her I didn’t understand what she was saying. Finally, after I heard her clearly say “Jesus” three times– I told her I believed in Him. Pointing out the window at some place in the middle of the bustling city life in the surrounding buildings, she proceeded to tell me there is a church nearby.

“Tamen shuo Hanyu ma? (Do they speak the native language?)” I asked her.

“No, they’re all your friends! They speak English!” She replied. Apparently there was a foreigner’s fellowship nearby, and according to my land lord I know all the other foreigners in town. (There are a few thousand in our city of 4+ million people.)

Well, that’s not the end of the story. I ended up finding out that she is a Christian too! She also attends a church! Can this be real? How amazing! Her whole countenance toward me changed. Soon she was going the extra mile, trying to take care of me. We had overcome the initial argumentative, bargaining part of the relationship and were well on our way to developing some “guanxi” (positive relationship, an important part of Asian culture). It’s good to be back!