The Movement on Your Shoulders

I’m drinking a beer at a hip new bar downtown, live music flows from buildings up and down the street - a collage of sound set against neon lights on a windy cosmopolitan evening.

I lose myself, thinking for a moment that it’s just another night in Austin until a curious voice snaps me back to reality.

“Zhongwen?”

I look up and see a young Chinese man I noticed earlier, one of a group trying to draw customers into the bar. He wants to know if I speak Chinese.

“Wo de zhongwen…bu hao,” I say, recalling the year of Chinese I took in high school.

He smiles.

“Ni shi yinguo ren?” he asks. “Are you English?”

I say I’m American. He asks how that’s going for me.

“Hao,” I say, with a shrug of the shoulders. “Good.”

I ask how being Chinese goes for him.

“Zhongguo hao! Beijing, hao hao!” he says enthusiastically.

I want to continue the conversation, and by the look on his face, he does too.

I want to ask what he thinks about America, and where he would travel if he had the chance. I want to learn his wildest hopes and dreams, but the language barrier is too much. He goes back to bringing in customers, and I go back to my drink.

It’s not that long ago that there were no live bands in China. There was no foreign music disrupting the night with its bourgeois strains, and few foreigners drinking beer and fraternizing with the locals.

But this is a new China.

The band launches into a cover of "Hey Jude." I can’t help but sing to myself. I look up and see my new acquaintance also singing. Our eyes meet, and we sing louder. People passing stop and join us for the last few measures.

Yeah, this is definitely a new China.