识别 shíbié (v. to distinguish, identify, tell the difference between)
I’m heading to the gas company’s ‘local’ office to pay four bills late (normal). It’s a good 30 minute walk. The streets are fairly quiet out here, where the map is barely filled in. Not many people venture so far west unless they are either A: local or B: a foreigner too lazy to pay bills punctually.
There are signs of commerce but only of the homegrown variety. A tobacco stand. A glass cutting workshop (in which the family also live). A fruit and vegetable seller. If there was a line here would be the end of it. The gas company office is down an anonymous alley, indicated only by graffiti scrawled in green on a crumbling wall. I’ve made this trip once before and I remember where to go.
As I stroll the final hundred yards I’m spotted by a small boy crouching on the pavement outside his parents’ shop. The mother is squatting too, across the threshold like a sentry, chewing on seeds which she spits out on the step. The steps of her own business. There’s quite a pile around her, like spent bullets. She’s obviously been defending the position for quite a while.
The boy, perhaps four years old, leaps from his squat energetically. He runs towards me, covering about 20 yards in a matter of seconds. He stops a stride in front of me, points up and turns to his mother.
“Hey, mum. Is that a foreigner?” he calls back to her.
She nods and spits out another seed.
“I was right!” he says proudly, satisfied with his skills of detection.