Saturday, November 3, 2012

An Afternoon with a Balloon in Changsha

The other day I saw a balloon seller in Changsha, Hunan province.

man selling balloons in Changsha, China

One of his balloons caught my eye. After some negotiation I bought it, and we then had a brief chat. I was surprised to learn he is from Luoyang, Henan province, which is about 510 miles (820 km) away (map). And he was surprised to learn I had been there before. He asked if the balloon was for my kid. I told him I didn't have any kids, but I planned to give the balloon to someone else. He bid me farewell as his friend, and I did the same in return.

I didn't pay much attention to the balloon as I walked around Changsha that afternoon. However, I did notice other people paying attention to it, whether with a puzzled or humored expression. And in a few cases it opened up opportunities to meet new people like the man from Luoyang.

Towards the end of the day I stopped by a large convenience store that I have been frequenting during my time in Changsha. I always have at least a brief chat with the staff there so I know most of them. I asked a young male worker if he was dating anyone. He said he wasn't and asked if I could introduce him to an American woman. I told him I'd keep an eye out and advised him to start saving up for an engagement ring. He expressed confidence that would not be a problem.

I had planned to give the balloon to a kid on the street or whichever receptionist happened to be working at my hotel when I returned. But the shirt of a young worker who was cleaning some containers made me smile. So I decided to give her the balloon.

young worker at a store holding a cat balloon in Changsha, China

I think I found it a good home.

That balloon had led to several moments which may not have happened otherwise. I wasn't out to make any grand discoveries, although you never know what can happen. Just meeting a few more people was enough to make it a good investment.

Plus, it was a pretty nifty balloon.

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