On Tuesdays, my apartment becomes a Civil War reenactment. From the third floor, we hear the crackling fire of a hand-cranked oven, a voice yelling a signal, and the BOOM of the popcorn machine that follows like clockwork.
We’d spent the last few weeks trying to figure out the origin of these yells and these explosions, dismissing it as nearby construction. But this last time we finally saw the popcorn seller. There he was, fully visible from our third floor balcony – popping corn, tending to the coals of the fire, and warning the neighborhood of the forthcoming blasts of the machine with a loud shout, just as startling as the machine itself. We stood on the balcony, watching the rituals with which he wrapped the exhaust pipe in a woolen blanket, the way he moved away from the oven, and the ensuing sounds that reverberated throughout the entire block.
It’s seeing things like this that remind me that living in China is like living like nowhere else in the world. That I can look down from my window to find a (probably unlicensed) street vendor making street food with questionable equipment that goes off in regularly timed explosions. It’s beyond absurd, but moments like this make me feel like I made the right choice by moving here.