Slumped into a chair in front of a blackboard that had seen better days I waited for a few minutes as my students took an obligatory break from a two hour class. On my left one of several children remained seated in class. They are Chinese and mostly eleven years old.
A bob of black hair shines from a pretty face. She looked at my newly grown beard and asked, 'how old are you'? I replied in Chinese, 'one hundred and twenty eight years old'. I could see eyes that believed and disbelieved at the same time.
She looked again but this time more intensely. Suddenly her arms went up into the air above. For a few seconds I wondered what this could mean then I realized I was wearing a rather unsightly hat which is fine for the cold but little else. I took it off.
She smiled. 'You are not so old', she said. And then offered me a sweet which I took and ate. I enjoyed it. We both sat and chewed a few more sweets. For a short while longer peace reigned in this small world. Boys played loudly again. The rest of the class returned. Now it was time to teach.