I know I said I was going to look forward, not back, from now on. But I lied. There is one more day in 2011 that I want to write about.
Two and a half weeks ago I spent an afternoon in Chinatown with the blog girls — Martina, Karen, and Namrata. It was my first visit to Joburg’s ‘new’ Chinatown, which is in a suburb called Cyrildene. (‘New’ Chinatown in Cyrildene is not to be confused with ‘old’ Chinatown in the Joburg city centre. You may remember that I visited the old Chinatown a few months ago.)
My friends took me to Chinatown because I needed some cheering up, and I was also in dire need of a haircut. Karen knows a ridiculously cheap hair salon in Chinatown, and a Chinatown haircut is a great excuse to gorge on cheap, delicious Chinatown food.
The prettiest building in new Chinatown, also known as Cyrildene.
I love new Chinatown. Old Chinatown is cool from a historical perspective but there isn’t much there anymore — just a handful of restaurants and shops. New Chinatown, on the other hand, is a thriving community. And unlike the Chinatown in my home city of Washington D.C., Jozi’s Chinatown is not a tourist trap. It’s too grungy for most tourists. It’s a real place, where Chinese people live, work, shop, and speak Chinese.
It was six days before Christmas and Joburg had already started to empty out. All the shops were open but we basically had Chinatown to ourselves.
We started at the Guang Dong Hairdressing Salon. My haircut experience was fabulous and hilarious. I won’t fully recount it here because Karen has already written a charming account on her blog. The highlight of the haircut was the price: R80 ($10) for a wash, cut, and blowdry. (It’s normally R70 but I paid an extra R10 because my hair is so long.) Qing Qing, my stylist, even flat-ironed my hair and made me look like Jennifer Aniston. Qing Qing did not speak a word of English. Karen translated.
Here are a few photos. For more, check out the Story of Bing.
The Guang Dong Salon. (Photo: Karen Lim)
The cut. It was a bit painful at times because Qing Qing works exclusively with a cheap plastic comb. Not the best tool for my long tangled mane, which hadn’t been cut in eight months. Not that I’m complaining. $10! (Photo: Karen Lim)
Thank you, Qing Qing. You made me feel like a movie star. I’ll be back. (Photo: Karen Lim)
Showing off my haircut one more time, while modeling a Thai hat at a Chinese grocery. I’m not normally so vain. But…$10! (Photo: Karen Lim)
After the haircut it was time for lunch.
Don’t be fooled by the nondescript facade and the lackluster name, ‘Beef Noodle’. This place is good.
We surrendered our taste buds into Karen’s capable hands and let her order for the table. We wolfed down water spinach, fried rice, pork spare ribs, tasty meat skewers, and some other yummy stuff that I can’t remember now. We drank aloe nectar from green plastic bottles. We talked and laughed and took photos. It was really fun.
Water spinach. It might look and sound weird but I found it scrumptious.
Fried rice. Unlike the fried rice you get at an average Chinese restaurant in America, not greasy at all.
Karen attacks a meat skewer.
Toward the end of our lunch, I suddenly felt a horrible pang of sadness. ‘I’m really sad right now,’ I said aloud. My friends nodded sympathetically. We paid the bill and left.
We wandered around some more and took pictures in the afternoon sun. Our final stop was a bakery, where I bought a small, sugary ball of bean paste. I nibbled it as we wandered up the street toward our car.
Late afternoon in Chinatown.
My phone rang. That’s when I got the news that Jon died.
Karen gently pried the sticky, half-eaten sweet out of my hand and threw it on the ground.
At first I didn’t plan to blog about my day in Chinatown. I thought it might seem inappropriate, or disrespectful. But then I realized that Jon would be pissed off at me if I didn’t write this post. My visit to Chinatown, up until the last 10 minutes, was a classic 2Summers adventure. If Jon were still alive and healthy on that day, I would have rushed home and told him about my afternoon with the girls. He would admire my supermodel haircut, then I would download my pictures and we would edit through them together, talking and laughing. The photo of Bing with the meat skewer would be his favorite.
I know I promised not to blog about Jon’s death anymore. But leaving out the last part of this story would feel dishonest.
That day — December 19, 2011 — was the worst day of my life. Yet I also felt some genuine happiness that day. I think Jon would be happy about that.
I’m going to gloat one last time…$10! (Photo: Karen Lim)
Since I’ve broken my promise anyway, I may as well share this lovely obituary about Jon from the South African Sunday Times.