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A special type of collector

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As I was walking to uni on Monday morning, I saw a man sitting by a whole load of little bird cages on the side of the pavement. I remember seeing him one morning last week (for the first time), but I didn’t stop, because I wanted to make it to class on time. I hoped I’d see him again. When I did see this sight again on Monday, I was actually running later to class than I probably was that day the previous week. But I realised that, with this being my last week of uni here, and the fact that I can’t really afford to say things like “I’ll do it next time”, because there probably won’t be a next time(!), I had to stop then and see what was going on.

I didn’t think this was the case, but not knowing how else to strike up a conversation, I asked him:

Ibby: Wow! So many birds..! Are they for sale, or?

Birdman: Haha, no, not for sale. For fun!

Ibby: For fun?

Birdman: Yeaahh πŸ˜€

I: You have so many, what do you do with them..?

B: I teach them to sing πŸ™‚

I: Oh?

B: And I like to listen to them… and see which one is good… you see?

I: Ohh…so, which one isΒ the best then?

B: Hm, what?

I check my Chinese.

I: Which one is good then?

Hmm, he thinks.

He points.

B: That one.

I: Is it alright if I take a picture?

B: Yeaah, go on!


As I took a few pictures, he piped up.

B: You see, they’re afraid of humans. (He had to repeat this 2 or 3 times, cos I wasn’t sure what he was saying, it was a bit out of the blue)

I (finally): Ohhh, yeah! I understand, afraid of me, afraid of you…

B: Yes yes, exactly. Afraid of kids… *gestures to the street*


I didn’t count exactly, but there must have been at least 20 cages!

Inside each cage was a little container, similar in shape and size to that of a tealight. There was a piece of cucumber inside them, at which the birds had pecked away. Some cages had two containers, one with cucumber, and one with seeds.


You can just about make out the cucumber in the cage furthest on the right

B: How did the sound come out? Can you hear them singing?

He was so smiley and proud of his birds and their ‘singing’, as he should be! It was really sweet πŸ™‚

I: Oh I just took a picture, not a video..

B: Oh.

I considered.

I: Oh well if you don’t mind, let me try then…

He smiled.

As I started taking a video, he asked me if I could understand what he was saying. They really do like this question.

I stopped recording, all I could hear was a lot of cars on the road (although, thankfully, it hasn’t come through as loud in the actual video). I thanked him. He smiled again and asked me the inevitable question – Where are you from? As is also always the case, he repeated my answer (England) back to me as a question, for confirmation.

I: Yes, England.

B: Oh. (He was a man of few words)

I: Well, thank you πŸ™‚ I should go now… I’m late for class.

B: πŸ™‚ Ok.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said he was a man of few words.
But he was a man of many birds!
It was a nice start to my day, I walked the rest of the way to class really happy πŸ™‚

(I saw him again this morning: Wednesday! I didn’t stop though, I was running late (anyone see a pattern forming here?) and he was also talking to someone. I smiled and waved a little as I went by, and he just smiled and acknowledged in return. The birds sounded louder today, and dare I say, more sing-songy!)
Also, I want to share the video, even though it’s nothing special, but that’s gonna take a bit more time to sort out and get up, so hopefully after exams and everything is over.


About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

One response »

  1. I knew there was nature lover in you. Waiting for video upload – in your own time.


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