Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Tale of a Cheat

It should have been obvious. I mean, a red suit? But when the children were going crazy and I couldn't hardly understand his Chinese...

It started with a knock at the door. Noon. I'd just finished reading to the girls and told Hadassah we were going to get some lunch. Ryan was meeting friends that day, so he wouldn't be home. But first, the door. I put Ellie on her tummy with some toys and Hadassah and I went to answer.

He seemed just as surprised to see us as I was to see him. I was expecting a delivery man, and he sure wasn't expecting a foreigner. He had a booklet that had big pictures of roaches on it. Not something I really wanted to look at! He said something I didn't understand and gestured with a tube of what looked to be bug repellent. Hmm, I guess he's hear to spray for bugs? Maybe they get this done every year?

I motioned him inside but gestured to his booklet and told him “we don't have these” in my limited Chinese. Being on the 14th floor has had its perks, as I have yet to see a bug inside this apartment, unlike those that invaded our first one!

He said some other stuff, and noticing my confused look, said in English, “You don't speak Chinese.” I affirmed that with an “yi dian dian” (very little bit) and he didn't offer anything else in English so I'm guessing that was limited for him too. He kept gesturing to his booklet, showing me a picture of roaches and spiders, and was looking for something in the kitchen. I let him. I mean we often have random people come by to fix things or look at the numbers on our gas meter or whatever. When I can't speak the language I just let people do their thing. He put some bug stuff on the hinges of the door, as I checked on Ellie. Then he had me sign my name on a piece of paper, that was almost full of other signatures. It confirmed to me what I'd been thinking: This must be something they do in each apartment every year.

But then he pulled out four boxes of roach traps and two receipts, each for 200 kuai (about $34). That's when I got unsure – I mean, I wasn't planning on buying anything, and if I did have to pay for the bug repellent he'd done I was expecting a smaller amount! So, I told him I would call a friend.

“E.” She's the one who always helps us with things like this. She's been friendly from even before we moved here, and so helpful to translate for me when repair men come. In fact, one day she asked for ½ cup of peanutbutter since she'd run out and was cooking, which made me so happy as I told her it had always been my dream to know my neighbors well enough that we could ask each other for ingredients we were missing. She said it had been her dream too, and was glad she'd convinced us to move here. :) Anyway, I hated to bother her, especially since I knew she was sick with a cold, unable to come to our weekly study that morning. But I didn't know who else to call.

I briefly explained, and gave the phone to the guy, who talked with her for a while. Hadassah, meanwhile, I was trying to hold instead of letting her poke around the guy's things, and Ellie was getting a little fussy as it was time for her to nap again. When he gave the phone back to me, E started to explain that the stuff was child safe when the phone had issues. I could barely hear her so I put Hadassah down as she was making noise, only to have the phone drop and then me hear Ellie crying loudly. I looked over to see Hadassah kicking her feet into her head!!

This always happens when I'm busy – I seethed inwardly as I sent Hadassah to her room and comforted the crying Ellie. 9 times out of 10 Hadassah is very sweet to Ellie, loving to hug and kiss her, show her toys, and do “dance shows” for her. But when she knows my attention is elsewhere or people are around, for some reason the aggression comes out. Maybe because she knows she'll get attention? Either way it makes it hard to deal with in the moment, and grieves my heart to see. I tried calling E back, but Ellie was still crying and the phone was still breaking up. I knew I had to get back to Hadassah too, so I just gave the man the money. He was hanging around like he expected it, so I assumed E would tell me it was something they did at the apartment each year or something. If not that, maybe it was something our landlord ordered. Oh how hard it is to be renting and not able to speak the language!!

I put Ellie in her play pen and had a long talk and disciplined and prayed with Hadassah. I put her in her chair to eat some lunch, knowing part of her acting out was tied to hunger, and messaged E: “I paid the guy and he left. Maybe this is something they do every year, as he seemed to expect me to pay for it. Thank you for your help.”

She replied: “You paid how much? Kind of strange. I'll go to the Wuye [apartment facilities people] to ask.” I told her the amount, 400 kuai, and that there looked to be others that had signed, adding, “It was unfortunate that Hadassah started hurting Ellie, so I was very flustered. If we lost money it was my fault.”

Her reply clinched it: “Oh my goodness! He must be a cheat! He didn't say the money with me in the phone. Let me see if we can call to Wuye to stop the cheat!!” I felt bad. I didn't want her to go to so much trouble, with her being sick especially, telling her it was my fault and a risk we took living over here and not knowing the money. But we weren't alone. E sent another message: “I called Wuye. Cheat! Other people has called Wuye looking for him. What clothes does he wear? Red?”

Yes. I hadn't even really noticed in my distraction from the girls, but the red suit had been kind of gaudy. He'd been dressed up fancy, not like a normal repair man. The booklet must have been to try and convince me to buy something, whereas I just assumed it was an explanation. The tears came. The frustration of not being able to communicate with random people at the door, the fact that I'm just too trusting usually anyway, coupled with the sadness of seeing my older daughter hurt my younger. Sibling rivalry at such a young age is such a heavy thing, showing the ingrained nature of sin...

But soon what prompted tears turned into a reason to laugh. E called: “I'm on my way to your house. The security man caught the cheat. I will return your money in exchange for what he gave you.”

Visions of the older men that stand at our gate chasing down the “Cheat” made me smile a bit. And I breathed a sigh of relief at not having lost another almost $100 on something I just didn't understand. It gave me a story to tell Ryan and I praised E for her role in catching the Cheat. If she hadn't acted quickly, he probably would have gotten away.

And next time, I won't be quite as trusting to let just anyone in our house. I tend to be too agreeable when I don't understand someone. But this has opened my eyes... And given me another story to recount one day of our life in building 5.

Our home on a beautiful, blue sky day

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