Suzie and Jeff were adopted and named by Jie-jie during her class field trip to the inappropriately named Sun Flower Garden (oh, you must wait for it, probably tomorrow).
The act of pet acquisition was a perfect intercultural moment. My friend was trying to help us have a good time on the trip and insisted that we eat the street food, enjoy the small animals and photo ops, and finally, bring home a boy and girl crab to have as pets.
In each instance I declined. The thing was, I really meant it, but we have discussed elsewhere my difficulty engaging in the proper Chinese invitation-refusal turn-taking. I REALLY did not want any pet crabs – even more than I didn’t want to experience all that other stuff. I didn’t want to have to worry about their standard of living, and I didn’t want to have to worry about counseling the kids through their dying. Thus, I strenuously objected and seemed to be gaining ground despite the fact that my usual repertoire of face-saving phrases in support of refusal (e.g. I’ve just eaten, I don’t have time, I’m allergic, she is shy) were not particularly relevant.
Just as I thought that I might be in the clear, my friend turned to Jie-jie.
“Yao bu yao?” [Want not want?] She asked.
Jie-jie looked at me in supplication. I mean what 4 year old doesn’t want any type of pet they can get their hands on? I shook my head. “Bu yao” [not want] she replied. What a good kid!
“Ni yao” [you want] my friend replied. The pause had been too long. The response too mournful.
Within moments Jie-jie was skipping along with 2 little crabs and a lettuce leaf in a plastic ziplock bag with a small hole cut halfway up. I sent Jason a text so he could stop at the market for a pet cage. Tomorrow I’ve got to buy some food for the little guys. Only one question. How do you care for a crab?