One day, a couple of weeks after I arrived in Beijing, early in Spring, my wife excited told me, “I saw a fox.”
I looked at her quizzically, “A fox?”
“Yeah, near the Embassy.” she continued. “It seemed as if it came from the Rwandan Embassy, and it crossed over to the Philippine Embassy.”
It was strange that there would be fox right in the middle of metropolitan Beijing, in broad daylight. She claimed she saw the fox as she was walking outside compound where we lived, across the street from the embassy, on the way to the supermarket.
I told her she might have seen a cat, as our Embassy drivers had several very large long-haired cats. Or maybe, she saw dog, or a domestic fox. I recalled, “Remember the pet market when we were in Chongqing?” reminding her of how it was so easy to buy a pet fox during my previous assignment in western China.
“No. It was a wild fox.” She described the coloration in detail, a deep, dark, reddish brown, with black extremities, and somewhat white underbelly. But, it was a fox. Not a cat, nor a dog, nor was it was a domestic fox.
Every once in a while, passing the embassy, which happened almost, she’d say “Oh, I remember the fox.” and she’d continue to recount how she saw the fox and at times, when the conversation was lively, she’d describe it again.
It was hard figuring out where the fox, came from, but the topic would usually end with me suggesting that someone from the Rwandan Embassy must have had a pet fox (she stopped insisting it was a wild fox).
Now, it’s autumn. The leaves are red and gold.
Yesterday morning, I was crossing the street after bringing my daughter to school.
And there I saw it.
It was a fox.
It was running in broad morning daylight from the Rwandan Embassy to the Philippine Embassy.
As a child, I was an animal nerd. I wanted nothing more in the world to be a zoologist. I was a wildlife nut. I literally read every single book animals my primary school library about, including the scientific journals in the corner.
It was definitely a wild fox, its coat was strongly melanistic, unlike the usually lighter colored coats you’d see in domestic pet foxes.
I wanted to take out my camera to take a picture of it, but here in Beijing the embassies are guarded by armed police which don’t take kindly to having their pictures taken.
I hurried into the embassy, hoping to get an angle where I could take a picture of it without the armed police thinking they’d be in the frame. It seems like they aren’t allowed to look into the embassies they guard, so they’re always facing the street.
But once I got in the gate, I could see the fox no longer.
I peered into the bushes and hedges. I couldn’t see it. But I’m sure it was there somewhere.
I saw our gardener. He probably knew about the fox. I anyone knows about foxes in the embassy in the middle of the megalopolis of Beijing, it was he. He’s probably been with the embassy for over a decade.
“I saw a fox,” I excited told him, describing, how big it was, and where I saw it.
He looked at me patiently, too polite to interrupt me.
“So,” I asked him, “have you seen this fox before?”
He looked at me, and nodded knowingly.
“Oh, you probably saw one of our cats.”
(Updated 11/11/2021: My wife saw the fox again this morning on the way home after sending off our daughter to school. This time she saw it cross the street from the wooded area at the back of the St. Regis Hotel to the hedges in front of the area between the Rwandan and the Philippine Embassy. She had about a minute observe it, so we’re pretty sure our minds aren’t playing a tick on us by now.)