Ma Ma and Ba Ba Wang were an older retired couple — he an ex-military officer, she a rotund local tennis star. I lived in their apartment in Nanchong, China with their dog, Er Wa, and a turtle that mysteriously disappeared after a few weeks. Neither parent spoke a word of English, but their bubbly personalities, the deep bowls of noodles ready each evening, and their strange daily routine of stripping down to their underwear after a long day out on the town — it all became my world for a few months, so dear to me over time.
The Wangs were an odd duo, as many fellow SST friends would attest to after spending an evening with them. They were always eager to teach me everything there was to know, despite the language barrier. They’d tell me where to place my hands when I slept, scolded me for having a pimple on my face, and instructed me on how to correctly sit at the table. What seemed overwhelming at first, I understood later as a way of trying to shelter me, they just wanted me to feel at home with them. They were goofy, and made me feel goofy. We soon made one happy family.