When I first started in journalism on Sydney's Daily Telegraph more than 20 years ago, the editor led us new cadets into his office and then pointed out his window. "There are 4 million people in this city and everybody has a story to tell," he boomed.
In China, there are more than a billion stories to tell, so where do we begin?
Expats have the privilege to hear so many interesting tales and my friends back home are always fascinated when I banter about the days of our China lives.
There is one guy in Chongqing who probably doesn't want his story told. The city is bubbling like one of its famous spicy hotpot dishes and construction sites are spilling across everywhere.
When the job is done, workers pack up and move to the next site. This was the case one morning when a bulldozer started to knock down a makeshift toilet. The driver pushed the toilet about 6 meters before onlookers screamed for him to stop.
The man inside the toilet was not seriously injured, but he was so terrified that onlookers had to help him do up his pants. The poor bloke was obviously a passer-by, as every worker on site had been warned of the doomed port-a-loo.
A middle-aged Nanjing couple want everybody to know their story. They have written to the Guinness Book of Records to register themselves as the most similar couple on the planet.
The husband, surnamed Yu, and his wife, Jiang, first met playing badminton, which is coincidence No 1. Both were born in the same ward of the same hospital on the same day. They studied the same major at the same school and now work in the same industry. They have the same blood type; share a passion for spicy food and have moles identical in size and position.
What's funny is they wrote an official media statement about their similarities and called a press conference. And what's even funnier is the newspaper ran the story.
Then there is a story about old Sheng, a 60-year-old man in Jiangxi province who claims he cured malignant tumors in the tissue of his fat cells by eating sand for 18 years.
"I suffered from the pain of the sarcomas and ulcer, and was forced to give up my job. I badly needed a drastic remedy," said Sheng. He hatched the scheme after watching Approaching Science, a program on CCTV. "I ate a spoonful of the sand, washed it down with water and then chewed through another. I actually really enjoyed the taste," he said.
Two years later, tests showed that Sheng's tumors had shrunk. Medical experts suspected Sheng might also suffer from parorexia, an abnormal appetite, which inspires a craving for items unsuitable for eating.
Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Expat life can be challenging but when I hear about these people I just love living here.
(China Daily 04/21/2008 page10)