What do you mean you're not lucky? You lied to me? And what are you, a sheep?

More notes from China:

  • I am kicking myself for getting my hair cut before leaving for China because a) it's got some weird bits that don't look right and b) it's not long enough to put in a ponytail anymore. I am collecting a lot of sweat on the back of my neck. I am gross.
  • I sat in on a class where we learned to sing the birthday song in Chinese. ♫ Zhu ni sheng ri kuai le...
  • That semester of Mandarin I took in college keeps coming back to me in little pieces. Unfortunately, it is all mixed up with the other things filed in the "Not English" section of my brain, so I keep mixing it up with French, Spanish and Arabic. Then I saw Italian and German tourists today and started adding in what little bits I know of those languages too. My head is a big mess. Mostly I've been sticking to "ni hao" (hello) and "xie xie" (thank you) rather than trying to speak actual sentences in Chinese. I did go zai tushuguan, though I didn't say anything about it in Chinese! And I understood a whole sentence that someone said, too!
  • Mandarin is pretty much a made-up language, like Modern Standard Arabic, which no one really speaks as a native but which is accepted by speakers from various dialects as a standard way to communicate across dialects. It's based most heavily on the Beijing dialect.
  • Before I came, I was warned to keep an eye out for people getting up to all kinds of bathroom-activities in public. So far I haven't seen any of that, but I have seen an excessive amount of spitting, complete with loogie-hocking. I hate public spitting. I would almost rather they were peeing.
  • I finally had Chinese food! It was good! My host asked me if there's anything I don't eat, and I thought about it for a while and then answered, "I don't eat anything with the eyes still on it." Fortunately, there was none of that. There was some kind of pastry made with durian, though, which one of my hosts described as tasting "both sweet and oniony", which turned out to be exactly right. I am making do pretty well with chopsticks, and haven't embarrassed myself too much on that front.
  • I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. Or at least for the last two days. On Monday, I arrived at campus and there was no one to meet me at the gate, so I asked the guard for directions, but he couldn't read the Roman alphabet, so he called over a few passing students who read the building name, walked me most of the way, then pointed me off in the right direction. A few minutes later, I was passed by two English-speakers on bicycles, so I called out and they confirmed that I was going the right way. Finally, I made it all the way to the director's office without any help from his staff! Today, the story was much the same, except that I had to ask two different Chinese students, and I was wandering around the wrong side of the campus to start with, so I ended up much sweatier.
  • Sweat. Seriously. What's the deal? Make it stop. It is so ridiculously humid here that even when I'm not sweating, I'm soggy from all the moisture my clothes have absorbed. How come I show up at the office looking like something the cat dragged in, and all the locals just go about their business looking fresh as a daisy?
  • The number 8 is lucky in China because it (ba) sort of sounds like the word for rich (fa). (This is one reason the Beijing Olympics started on 8/8/08). Apparently in China, license plates, phone numbers and house numbers with 8s in them are more expensive than other numbers because people are so fascinated with 8s. The word for 4 sounds like "death", apparently, so that's a very unlucky number to have. You can get a phone number with a 4 in it for free. The thing that's weirdest to me about this whole thing is that you have to pay for phone numbers. What?
  • Best thing I've seen so far? The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. What the heck was that? Whose idea was that? It was insane.
  • CNN in China broadcasts The Daily Show, or at least it did one day this week. I haven't seen it since. It also shows a lot of commercials trying to entice tourists to Malaysia.
  • This hotel is a little too fancy for me. They have a turndown service where they deliver a robe and slippers to your bed around 6pm (if you're out at 6pm, which I've only been once), put packages of cookies on your pillow and turn on a little night light. Also, when I checked in, the desk clerk (manager?) gave me her business card, walked me up and showed me the features of the room. When I went to breakfast on the first day and asked if I could get some tea and a croissant to go, one of the hostesses walked me around the buffet with a plate, then had me tell her what I wanted, which she would pick up and put on my plate until I said stop. I just wanted a croissant and she started piling stuff onto the plate! Then she boxed it all up and put it in a gift bag. I'm surprised she didn't put cinnamon and a sprig of holly in it. It's ridonkulous. I don't know what to do with myself in such a place. The fussing is weird. The place is about the price I would pay for a hotel room on a business trip in the US, but I guess that buys you a lot more hotel attention over here. I do like the concierge service, though, because they do all the translating to tell the taxi drivers where I want to go. Then when I want to go back, I have a card that says, "Take me to my hotel! Here is the address!" (though perhaps not in those exact words) in Chinese, so all I have to do is manage to flag down a taxi (yipes!) and show it to the driver.
  • People keep asking me if Shanghai is hotter than Miami. I've never been to Miami, but this is even harder to explain to non-English speakers than to Americans (which is hard enough!), because in most languages besides English, the names for the school in Florida and the one that I work at are the same. This was especially confusing because I introduced myself to someone and he said, "Ah yes, the hurricane. You are fine now?" and I was surprised that our windstorm damage - which got almost no coverage in the US - was news in China. Turns out, he was talking about the other Miami.

srah - Tuesday, 23 September 2008 - 6:52 PM
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Comments (7)

gravatar jess - September 24, 2008 - 5:15 AM -

Our guide in China told us that if the last digit of your cell number is a 1 or 4 you get a discount on your phone bill.

(Love the quote btw! Love the movie :D)

gravatar Aunt Pam - September 24, 2008 - 8:03 AM -

Uncle John says "Jintian tenschi Hen rur"

He also says "Ni hao ma?" By the sounds of it that answer "rur"!

Tips for living in Shanghai: (Like stay out of red taxis!) http://www.johninshanghai.blogspot.com/

Hope you are having a grand adventure! Will you be getting the chance to go to Bejing? If you need any other help over there I've got a cousin (about your age) and my sister is still there but counting the days until she is repatriated.

Have a grand adventure!

gravatar Cheryl - September 24, 2008 - 8:08 AM -

1. I am loving the titles of your posts.
2. That tunnel is trippy. Too much like the boat ride in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
3. You sound like you are learning a lot about China!

gravatar Robin - September 24, 2008 - 8:58 AM -

The spitting is gross.
I would run out of the room at 6 so I could get that robe and cookies, everyday!
Are the hotel people calling you by your name yet?
Are you beading sweat while simply sitting, because that is always neat?!

gravatar tbone - September 24, 2008 - 10:50 AM -

who is the rich guy with the phone number with all 8s?

gravatar bob - September 24, 2008 - 11:14 AM -

Fascinating! And Cheryl is spot on - it totally was a Charlie in the Chocolate Factory moment watching that video. Spooky.

gravatar srah - September 24, 2008 - 6:48 PM -

Jess - That makes more sense! Maybe that's what she meant.

Aunt Pam - It doesn't look like I'm going to make it to Beijing, but I'm going to Nanjing this weekend.

Cheryl - I tried to come up with Mulan quotes that are related to the content, but I think I'm just going to give up and use Mulan quotes that are unrelated to anything.

Robin - I don't think they know me by name yet, but they are very attentive. And the worst thing is when you come in from outside, where it's all hot, into an air-conditioned room where the air conditioning isn't very strong, and just around the time you finally cool off, you have to leave again!

tbone - The person who told me about the 8s and 4s was very impressed with your baby's birthday!

bob/Cheryl - that's exactly how I described it to someone else!

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