When I was about five years old, I used to love sitting by one of the three windows of my home. Our apartment block was located at the edge of the community of tiny half-dilapidated apartments, and this window was facing the outside of our community.
Located at the second floor, from the window, I could see the roof of our storage shack, then a narrow street of small local shops, followed by rows and rows of roofs. I loved the way I could see “the whole world” from this window and observe what was going on nearby in detail.
Right in front of my window was a small tofu shop run by an old lady. She was of a similar age as my grandmother, probably the oldest shopkeeper on the street. When she was not busy serving her customers or making tofu inside the shop, she often sat by the shop entrance to greet people who passed by.
Whenever I looked out of my window, the first thing I did was to read the signboard of the tofu shop, which was right at my eye level.
“University Potato” it read.
I always wondered why this signboard was hanging on top of the tofu shop, since in my head, potatoes had nothing to do with tofu. I also thought that “university potato” was a rather strange name for a potato. There was a university right next to our apartments, so, maybe that’s why it was called that? It was not until a few years later that I went to primary school and learned that “university potato” was the name of a dish made from fried sweet potatoes.
After going through this routine chain of thought, I would then turn my attention to the entrance of the tofu shop. Almost always, I found the shopkeeper lady sitting by the entrance, smiling and waving at me.
When I was younger, I might have simply waved back at her. But at the age of five, I was a little more self-conscious.
“Why is she waving at me?”
I would feel slightly offended, as if somebody had uncovered me during my secret mission of observing the entire world. So, instead of waving back at her, I hid behind the wall, out of her sight.
After some time, I poked out my head to check the situation. As soon as I was back to the window, however, I saw the shopkeeper lady waving at me again, smiling as broadly as ever. She had apparently no idea that I was on a secret mission. This hiding and waving game between us continued until somebody came to her shop and the lady went inside to serve the customer.
Despite my many attempts of hiding, the lady always found me at the window and waved at me with the most loving smile in the world.