I’ve been spending a lot more time outside the apartment lately. I feel restless and impatient to see and hear and learn as much as I can. But I can only walk around the town for so long until I have to sit down and actually do something productive like write a poem or read a book. There are hundreds of little restaurants I could stop at, but sometimes I don’t want to eat, I just want to sit back and watch the traffic and listen to the car horns and watch the people wearing their medical masks and drifting by on their bikes. Sometimes what I really need is a nice quiet cafe and a cup of coffee.
I never thought I’d find a real American style cafe in this little Chinese town. Not a “real” American cafe, complete with the sound of a coffee grinder, the smell of steamed milk, wireless internet, sandwiches and pastries. Surely not in podunk Pizhou, where chicken sandwiches are mistaken for hamburgers, and traffic lights are less than suggestions.
I’m happy to report I was wrong. Fuwa Bakery is less than a ten-minute walk from my apartment, and it has almost everything an American cafe would have: espresso, wireless internet (although I may be mooching off the hotel next door), and even a rough and very Chinese version of a sandwich. Even better, the baristas are willing to help me with my Chinese as long as I help them with their English.
What makes the place great isn’t just the coffee, and it isn’t the wireless internet. It’s the people who visit the place. The people who want to speak English, who teach me Chinese, who smile and hand me my change. It’s the sound of Chinese conversation bouncing of the tile floor and walls. Ash trays on the tables, Chinese music seeping from the ceiling, red lanterns hung for luck above the front doors, red ribbons painted on the windows. The cafe is American, but not too American. I will come as often as I can. I will be here at 8:30 every morning, as soon as they open. I will stroll up to the counter and say “wo xiang yao yi bei zhou pai kafe” which means “I would like a cup of zhou pai coffee,” or loosely translated “I would like a small cup of home.”