If A Tree Falls in A For­est...

Were Amer­i­cans more likely than other Westerns to play vi­o­lin in bam­boo forests? Were Amer­i­cans known for their re­silience when con­fronted with knife wield­ing strangers?

That's China - - Contents - Text by Han­nah Lund

森林里倒下了一棵树

The mo­ment had passed, and there was noth­ing I could do. Ma­chetes have a way of break­ing one’s con­cen­tra­tion you see, and just as I was about to say my fi­nal pray­ers, one of the work­ers turned to­ward me and gave out the fa­mil­iar cry off, “HALLOOO!?”.

I’m not be­ing mod­est when I say that my re­cently-ac­quired Chi­nese vi­o­lin is lit­tle more than a shoe­box with strings. The sound is un­nat­u­rally tinny, and there isn’t even the name of the maker in­scribed on the in­side. The point is: I can love it to death with­out wor­ry­ing about col­lat­eral dam­age, and be­lieve me you, I love this Chi­nese vi­o­lin. To death. I love it so much that I de­cided to take it to my lo­cal park for a play-date. There’s a nice park across the street from my univer­sity in Xi­asha. It’s a great place to ad­mire the blos­soms peak­ing out of their buds and es­cape the bus­tle of the city. Nat­u­rally, I didn’t want my racket to dis­turb the pic­nick­ing cou­ples, so I found a some­what se­cluded area amongst a small clus­ter nd of bam­boo trees and there I sat. The path was out if the way enough to pre­vent me from wind­ing up on the evening news, but a few ran­dom strag­glers came won­der­ing by ev­ery now and again. Feel­ing re­laxed, I took out my beloved vi­o­lin, tuned, and be­gun to play. Not long into play­ing, I saw some work­ers go by. They climbed right into the bam­boo trees and, from the cor­ner of my eye, I watched their flat shoes pad softly over fallen leaves. What were they do­ing? I won­dered. Usu­ally I’d just ask straight out, but this time I didn’t be­cause I wanted to be a part of the back­ground. To just blend in. If I stopped what I was do­ing, it would be like break­ing the spell.

That was when I no­ticed the ma­chetes... I’ll skip ahead and tell you that they weren’t mem­bers of a lo­cal gang, or dan­ger­ous in any­way. Ac­tu­ally, they were very good work­ers as even the sight of a strange for­eigner play­ing vi­o­lin in the for­est didn’t dis­tract them from their task, which was to lop down bam­boo trees. But the thing is, I didn’t know this at the time, so I

con­tin­ued play­ing my ran­dom fid­dle reper­toire in an at­tempt to ease my creep­ing sus­pi­cions. It wasn’t un­til they stood about 5 feet from me that I fig­ured I was get­ting close to meet­ing my maker. I watched as they ex­am­ined the bam­boo trees, and then HACK! went the ma­chete and CRASH! went the tree. I went on play­ing, like those sad mu­si­cians on the doomed Ti­tanic, and tried to re­cap­ture the peace­ful ro­mance of a few mo­ments ago. But it was no use. The mo­ment had passed, and there was noth­ing I could do. Ma­chetes have a way of break­ing one’s con­cen­tra­tion you see, and just as I was about to say my fi­nal pray­ers, one of the work­ers turned to­ward me and gave out the fa­mil­iar cry off, “HALLOOO!?”. Then, af­ter a pause, he said, “That’s how for­eign­ers say it, right? Hal­l­looo?” “Yes,” I said. “But you can also just say ‘你好’, right?” He nod­ded. “Where are you from?” his friend asked. “Where do you think I’m from?” I asked. (Guess­ing games are al­ways much more fun). “Amer­ica,” he said with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

nd As I left the for­est, I won­dered how guessed my na­tion­al­ity so quickly. Was it a ran­dom guess? Were Amer­i­cans more likely than other Westerns to play vi­o­lin in bam­boo forests? Were Amer­i­cans known for their re­silience when con­fronted with knife wield­ing strangers? I sup­pose it’s like that ques­tion: If a tree falls in a for­est when no one’s around, will it make a sound? No-one will ever know I guess, ex­cept now I have an an­swer: it will sound like a crushed vi­o­lin.

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