a bus from montreal to toronto is sixty bucks.
a sri lankan van, which costs $40, drops you off at your door.
me: “ah, hello, is this the number for rides from Montreal to Toronto?”
damn, if only I spoke tamil. good thing there’s the chinese carpool, going rate at about $25.
on the way to t-dot
I’m two minutes late. Everyone’s already there. We leave right away. Efficient.
One girl is from Sichuan province. I ask what city, but she thinks I probably wouldn’t know it. I mention I’ve been to Chengdu. She’s amazed, and says that’s the one. (Nevermind that it’s the capital and one of China’s largest cities.) The other girl is from Wuhan, on the Yangtze river. I ask how they decided to move to Montreal, since it’s not the easiest place to go to with the French language and all. All because of a friend who had settled here beforehand–but of course it would be easier to live in Toronto. They import winter coats from China.
I don’t end up talking to the guy sitting in front, but the driver looks at me and laughs, “when I first heard your english on the phone, I thought you were a 外国人.”
wai guo ren means ‘foreigner’ (literally “outside-the-country person”). the funny thing about chinese people is that they could be clear across the world from china, and the only chinese people for miles, but still everyone else is a wai guo ren. Even though I was born in Canada, I am not a laowai (well, depending on the situation–as far as I can tell it has to do with a certain combination of language and ancestry). But nobody seems to notice the illogic of this.
My Chinese is faltering. I am spiraling down the wai guo ren path. We arrive at Don Mills subway in exactly 5 hours. Fast.
the way back
Driver is a Chinese guy who’s lived in Canada over 15 years, and commutes to Toronto on the weekend to see his wife and new baby. Passengers all women, all with northern chinese accents. One is a tourist. The other two doing advanced degrees at McGill.
The driver is really chatty, but when the conversation stops I finally hear more closely the music he is playing. “Chairman Mao… communist party…” All choral, with no soloists (of course).
which reminds me of my first haggling experience
…involving buying a certain little red book.
A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.
–Mao Zedong, “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement is Hunan” (March 1927), Selected Works, Vol. I, p.28.