Thursday, June 01, 2006

On Tuesday, Ariston's dad came home while I was giving Ariston his lesson. Usually, when either of the parents come home early, I cut the lesson short because Ariston is no longer interested in anything I can offer; Mom and Dad are much cooler than me.

So Ariston runs off to play with Dad and I go back to his room to tidy up. Five minutes later I hear screams to high heaven.

"Give it to me, Ariston," I hear his dad plead. Ariston just went on wailing. Then Dad comes into the room carrying the screaming, tearing, red-faced kid.

"What's wrong, Ariston?" I ask. In one fist he's got a red one-hundred yuan note. "I had some money out, he took it, and now, he won't let go of it," his father explained. "Ariston, give it back!" the father asked. Ariston would not give up the bill to save his life.

"Give it to Maile, then," Dad said, hoping I would be enough of a diversion to loosen his son's grip. Ariston gave me one look, paused, then continued screaming and crying.

One hundred yuan is about $12. It's the largest denomination of money available in China. For a kid in China, 100 yuan is easily as valuable as a hundred dollars for a kid in the States. There was precious little coming between the 20-month old Ariston and the money.

The expression "tight-fisted Chinaman" came to mind and I burst into laughter. "He's learned early," I told his dad. "Money and the ABCs...the basics are covered," his dad said.

I went into the other room, got my things together and when I went back to say goodbye, Ariston was being fed by his nanny and the cook. He still had his fist wrapped around the red bill. I laughed again, and said "goodbye". Ariston looked up from his lunch, smiled, and in perfect English, said, "money".

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