Friday, April 14, 2017

Small Steps, Small Victories

I have discovered a few things while traveling and  living abroad. First, people are usually kind and are willing to help especially if you smile and do not know the local language. Second, learn the local language. Even if you are hanging around a country for a few weeks learn a few words and phrases before you jump on the plane. Hello, Thank You, Please, Restroom, Help. A few random words go a long way in showing respect to the people of that country and you will be amazed at what can happen.

With that being said I am face first into learning Chinese. Yes, I know it is Mandarin but nobody calls it that. It is Chinese as I was "matter of factually" told.  It is easy to study and learn a language in the comfort of your own home or the safety of a classroom. Now get out in the world and use it. When you say fuck it and give it shot there will be small victories and moments of "holy shit, I can do this". I had a few of these moments this week.

Lunch and dinner break is a communal thing here. When 12:00 comes someone always comes up to you and asks "where will we go for lunch". At 5:00 the moment is the same but the question is "where do you want to go for dinner". I had lunch a few times with Candy, one of the English tutors. She ordered for me the first time but in her great Chinese way she said, "tomorrow you order or you will not eat". Talk about tough love, Chinese style. Well the next day we decided on a Chinese Hamburger (rou jiamo) and cold noodles (liang pi). I was told I had to order but not only the food I needed to use the verbs want and eat. This great lunch place go to is busy, loud and fast. You have to be on your game. Well I stood in line and slowly advanced towards the counter. It is tough enough being the only Western guy in the place now I am going to speak and you can be sure anyone around will be listening. With each step forward my anxiety level increased (dramatic effect) as it does in situations like this. Candy, ever supportive gave me the final, "Ken you want to eat right?" I like her more and more. It is my turn and without thinking I nailed it. Wo yao chi rou jiamo he liang pi....bitches!! (there are accents and tones that really cause the problem).

You have to buy gas and electricity for your apartment. You top up your card (looks like any bank or credit card), slide it into either the electrical or gas until and it tops up with how ever much you pay. You can check your balance at any time but you know that 200 yuan will get you about a month of gas and 3 months of electricity. Well my gas ran out with the tell tale beeping of the unit. I mentioned it to the girls at the school and Ella immediately said "lets go", so we did. The shop that sells gas in my apartment complex was closed and would be closed for the next 5 days. No reason but that is how they roll in China. Ella went back to school and  gave me the directions with a WeChat map to a shop. So off I went to buy gas.

I knew the direction because it is near the dentist that I paid a visit to last week for a chipped molar that I have to get repaired. Long story short I will be getting a porcelain crown in June. I went to a Mexican Dentist, why not a Chinese Dentist. I found the shop easy enough by matching the Chinese Characters believe it or not. It helped when I got inside it said China Gas on a poster. So without pause I said hello. The guy busying whatever in front of me took one look smiled and waited to see what was going to happen. I said, this place. I want to buy gas, 200 yuan.(Zhe li. Wo yao mai chi. Er bai yuan..again accents and tones). The guy behind the counter said OK, took my card and money and did his thing. The old guy beside me was smiling and patting me on the back telling me that my "Chinese was good" or something to that effect. He could have be telling me he wanted me to come home and be his love child for all knew. I just used the few phrases I knew..I don't understand, my Chinese is bad, I can speak a little Chinese. Well he got bored pretty quick when our attempted conversation fizzled before it started and off he went. The shop keeper handed me my card, smiled and said thank you and off I went.

I stood on the steps of the shop feeling like a champ and said out loud and in English "shit, I just bought gas in China". I guess it was loud enough that the 3 people passing by looked up at me, and then started laughing. I am sure I heard La Wei (foreigner). Whatever, I just ordered and paid for gas in China!!

I ordered food that gives me gas and I bought gas that allows me to cook my food. The circle of life.

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