12 November 2007

Desert Bathers, in Their Native Environment (Part 1)

A professional translation job and my MA has eaten up whatever free time I had. Well, okay, there's a significant part also devoted to the manufacturing of carrot cakes. So, unfortunately, I haven't quite finished the second essay in her collection yet (still!). I think I'll post the completed parts and hope that it'll shame me into finishing it.

"Desert Bathers, in Their Native Environment" // 沙漠观浴记
Part 1 // (一)

Original found at: http://www.ccview.net/htm/xiandai/wen/chenmaoping007.htm

At dusk one day, Jose suddenly decided to tame his head of bedlam. Upon hearing that piece of news, I hurried into the kitchen to grab the big fish-cleaning scissors, thinking that a washcloth would do to protect his neck.

"Make yourself comfortable," I said.

"What the hell are you doing?" He jumped.

"Cutting your hair," I grabbed a handful.

"Don't you have enough of your own hair to cut?" He took another step away from me.

"The barber in town isn't going to be any better than I am. You might as well save the money. Well, come here! Come back here!" I tried to trap him again.

Jose grabbed the keys and ran out. I dropped the scissors to chase after him. Five minutes later, we're sitting in the stiflingly hot and none-too-clean barbershop. The barber, Jose, and I were busy debating haircuts. None of us budged. The barber wasn't happy at all, glaring at me ferociously.

"San Mao, why don't you go for a walk?" Jose said impatiently.

"I'll leave if you give me some money." I grabbed a blue bill from Jose's pocket, then stomped out of the barbershop.

There's a trail behind the barbershop that leads out of town. Both sides were filled with trash. Mosquitoes patrolled in swarms. A flock of scrawny goats were foraging for snacks. I've never been this way before.

I passed by a windowless hovel. A pile of dried scrub blocked the door. Curious, I stopped to take a closer look. There was a placard to the side with the word "fountain" on it.

Why would a dump like this have a fountain of any kind? So of course, I walked closer, intending to peek inside.

With the sun at my back, I didn't see anything, though I heard someone cry out, astonished, "Ah…ah…!!" at the same time others started shouting in Arabic.

I turned and ran a few steps, still unenlightened. What were those people doing inside? Why were they afraid of me?

A middle-aged man wearing Sarahan-style robes chased after me. He saw that I hadn't run away yet, and charged up like he wanted to arrest me.

"What were you thinking, peeking at bathers?" He angrily accused me in Spanish.

"Bathing?" That didn't make sense at all.

"Shameless woman, go away. Shoo…shoo." That man waved his hands at me, as if herding chickens.

"What are you shooing at, wait a minute," I yelled at him. "What are they doing inside?" I asked him as I tried to enter.

"Bathing. Having a bath, don't look!" He started shooing me again.

"You can bathe here?" My curiosity roused at his words.

"Yes!" That man answered impatiently.

"Bathe, how do you people bathe?" I asked excitedly. This is the first time I heard that Sahrawi** bathed, I was going to find out if it killed me.

"Find out for yourself," he said.

"I can have a bath too?" I asked, dazed with happiness.

"Women bathe in the morning, from 8 to noon. Forty pesos."

"Thank you, thank you, I'll come tomorrow!" I ran off, back toward the barbershop to tell Jose about this new attraction.

(to be continued...)

**San Mao's 沙哈拉威人 doesn't seem to be in common usage. A little bit of research seems to indicate that she was talking about the Sahrawi, but it's still questionable.


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