Chinese New Year is a coming. Gong Xi Fa Cai! Apart from the gaudy decorations that are now being hung around town, large potted Mandarin Orange plants are also springing up in front of office buildings and apartments.
A couple of these plants appeared in the lobby of my condominium complex today.
In Chinese culture Mandarin oranges symbolize luck, good fortune and positive energy. They are symbolic of abundance and wealth. To the ethnic Chinese wealth is more important than health. Wealth is more important than anything. The golden color of the fruit is also a symbol of the sun.
It represents a fresh start of a new year.
These mandarin plants are a sight to behold. They are burdened with fruit.
I like them a lot.
I was admiring these fruits when I arrived home from work this evening. Apart from the aesthetics I also enjoy the taste of mandarins. I picked a couple in fact and peeled and ate them right there in my lobby. They were more bitter than sweet but that was OK - I was thirsty and they were juicy. As I reached to pick a couple more I noticed a flash of movement from the guardhouse. The guard was charging towards me. He was waving his arms and yelling "Cannot! Cannot!"
This was interesting. I have been living at this particular address for more than a year now and I have only ever seen this security guard asleep before. To actually witness his consciousness, movement and audibility was something new. I peeled another mandarin and I spat out the seed from the one I was eating. I awaited his arrival.
"What's up Uncle?" I enquired.
"Oranges. Eat. Cannot" he blustered.
He was a bit breathless from the twenty meter sprint from the guardhouse.
"Oranges eat can" I replied.
I somewhat nonchalantly spat another pip into the garden bed.
"In fact Oranges eat delicious" I added.
"Here have some".
I handed him a couple of segments.
The poor bloke looked horrified. He was aghast. He was wringing his hands and was hopping from foot to foot. He refused to accept the fruit and was moaning "Cannot. Cannot".
"Can Can" I responded.
"Yum Yum too".
I plucked a couple more from the plant and I put them in my pocket. The security guard continued his agonized hopping. He was pulling at his hair now too.
I chewed on.
It was becoming obvious to me that he was not used to being awake during his work shift. I was going to wander off to the elevator and go up to my apartment but the hopping guard had pulled out his mobile phone and was now shrieking into it. I think he was speaking Hokkien. I heard the word Ang Mo uttered a couple of times. Hokkien is a Chinese dialect and Ang Mo means a white man. I decided to take a seat.
This was getting interesting.
I plucked another fruit.
After a minute or so of intermittent shrieking and intense listening, the Security Guard thrust the phone in my direction. He was literally foaming at the mouth. I accepted the phone with one hand and picked another mandarin with the other. A little juice was dripping from my chin.
"Hello" I said into the receiver
"Hello" I heard back.
The voice was loud and it was female. It sounded very anxious. I suspect the person to whom I was speaking was also hopping on the spot.
"Oranges eat cannot" it screamed.
Over and over again.
"Oranges eat can" I replied.
This was getting repetitive.
There was a tirade of Hokkien or perhaps it was Mandarin - which would have been ironic. Such was the volume that I had to hold the phone away from my ear. After a short while I handed the device back to the Guard. He was still very agitated. He seemed to be getting some urgent instructions. After thirty seconds or so he sprinted back to the guardhouse where I saw him frantically opening drawers. He then ran back to where I was sitting and he was now clutching a small digital camera. He proceeded to take my photo.
I obligingly posed for him in a series.
He didn't seem at all appeased.
I got bored after a few minutes and went up to my apartment. My pockets were swollen with forbidden fruits.
I am awaiting the knock on my door.