老朋友,中国西安 Old Friend Revisited

老朋友, 中国西安

One of the most rewarding things about my travels to China is the wonderful people I've met. In 2008, I visited 西安 to see the 兵马俑. At the end of the day I was strolling about the neighborhood that sits behind the back gate and heard a man asking me in broken English "do you take photos?" The big camera hanging around my neck being all too obvious I confirmed, at which he proudly proclaimed "my dad smokes tobacco! Come with me... my dad smokes tobacco". A little nervous I followed the man through the narrow passages of the neighborhood to his home, where his 90 year old father sat outside smoking a pipe of tobacco. Not being able to communicate well, I captured a few photos and thanked the men for the opportunity. A year later this photo (top image here) had become a signature image in my portfolio.
In 2010, I returned to Xi'An specifically to reunite with this man, and to deliver prints of this image for the family. With no name or address I only knew to go back to the Terracotta Warrior site and to repeat my stroll from two years earlier. Confused and lost I began showing my photo to locals asking if anyone knew the old man. Luckily, I was only a few doors away and a neighbor helped me to reunite with the old man whose face I knew so well. The man was sick, still in bed in the afternoon, but woke up to greet me after being informed of the visit by his daughter. Despite his health he did a dance for me, called me 老朋友and smiled from ear to ear when looking at the photo I had captured at my last visit. My mission almost complete, only one thing left to finish... get a photo together with my old friend.
The bottom image was taken during my second visit in 2010.