Day 10 - Return of the Jedi

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
Smog Level: 0 Mountains to 3 Mountains

Brushing aside the living room curtain, it’s clear that the morning isn’t. Clear, that is. It’s a 0 mountain day, which makes me wonder if I should finally don the surgeon mask, also known as a filter. Shimou and I pack them, but don’t actually wear them because the day is windy and the smog seems to have cleared to a 2.5 mountain atmosphere by the time we’re ready to go. That’s the relationship with Beijing and Smog: It’s like a bowl, so they’ve told me, that fills with pollution and clears up when the wind blows strong enough to push it all out. Not sure how accurate that explanation is, but it does seem to be clear almost exclusively on windy days so far.

The crowds have returned.

These sorts of things are really cool. It's Old things surrounded by New.
They're renovating and restoring them, so I've been told.
(This photo was taken from holding my camera above the fence)
During the Chinese New Year, most people get time off and go back to their home towns to see their families. When I arrived, there actually weren’t many people around and the stores weren’t busy. We have no food in the apartment and need to eat something on our way to my first in-person tutoring session. Quickest thing: McDonald's. It’s packed. At the back of the ordering line is a staff member shouting something, apparently about ordering using the electronic interfaces if people want to pay with their cards. She tells Shimou to close her purse, just in case of pickpockets. Shimou said that's not common, but shopkeepers would rather customers take precautions than be robbed in their store. Bad press and all that.

With the increase in crowds, I’m being stared at more. It’s not a big deal, but I feel I can relate to how an attractive woman might feel. They seem to be staring at me out of amazement or curiosity, though the odd glance that could imply attraction. Most are subtle, but some will outright turn as they walk in front of you, staring over their shoulders. I haven’t yet started to play with this, though. Maybe I’ll start waving or smile and say “nǐ hǎo.”

Tutoring is great. I already have a habit of explaining things all the time for free. In this case, I just have to talk about English. They even brought their own tutoring materials! I hear other people are even easier, simply wanting you to chat with them for the full hour. I could get used to this.

After the two hours of tutoring in a fancy hotel, my student’s father directed us to a nearby bookstore so I could buy a book to learn Mandarin. I think I should probably pay some attention to reading, but the speaking still needs a lot of work. Generating simple statements is one thing, but understanding is still very difficult because of the speed at which they speak. At least I’m starting to be able to hear the difference in tones.

On the way to the bookstore, we grab street food. I can now say that I’ve tried “Stinky Tofu,” and it does live up to the name. Tastes good, if you can get past the smell and blackness! Their sausages taste a lot different from ours. Different spices and "filling," I assume. Before you make a comment about the contents of Chinese sausages, I suggest you look into the contents of sausages in general.

We don’t find any good books on learning Mandarin for English speakers, but I do attempt to buy a notebook for future students to do work in. I walk up to a cashier to pay for it, cash in hand. But wait! I have to go back to where I first picked up the book so that they can give me a slip. I go back and exchange the book for the slip. Yes, they held onto the notebook, saying I’d have to go back to a cashier, pay for it, and return with the receipt so that I could finally possess the notebook for good. Do they want my money or not?

These Guys are Great. (L: Luke, R: Sunny)
Luke and Sunny, friends who let us stay at their place in Melbourne, are in town and want to grab dinner. Luke is a bit of a foodie, so I bet this place will be interesting, if not great. It’s good to see them again, though I still largely can’t follow the conversation. Snippets here and there, which was better than I was able to do in Melbourne. Just gotta keep chipping away at the most commonly spoken words, and I’ll get there soon enough.

The restaurant was unlike any I’ve been to before. They deliver a big, rectangular pan onto the table with a burner underneath it, keeping it hot. You pick a fish, an assortment of vegetables, and how spicy you want it. It’s all tossed in the pan, and you pick at it with your chopsticks. It was good, but very spicy. The top picture is what ours looked like upon delivery to the table. Shimou has made comments about us becoming “more Chinese” when her nose is running, which I didn’t get until she pointed out that they eat spicy food so often that their noses seem to continually run. Makes sense now.

Sunny noticed I was taking a picture, Throwing the Peace Sign in the shot.
I really want a cold coffee brewer (three are on the left).
We go to Gloria Jeans and I attempt to order my coffee. Since one of the words of the day is “big/large,” and I learned “small” yesterday, I finally understand the follow-up question instead of having to look confused. I kind of feel like I’m saying “yes” in Russian: dà, dà. Given that I just got paid a decent amount for excessively easy work, I offer to pay for everyone’s coffee. Small gesture, but this is the first time I've had any money when with this group. At the restaurant, I had tried to remember the “single dog” joke, but could only come up with “lonely dog,” which Luke didn’t understand. While waiting for the others to order, I finally remember and loudly declare “Single Dog!” to Luke, seeming like I’m calling him one. Whoops. We had a good laugh, though.

Sunny is working at PricewaterhouseCoopers (aka The Devil) in China, and they seem to be as big of slave drivers here as they are in North America. I have heard very little good, and whole lot of bad about that company. She has to pull out her laptop and do work at the table while the rest of us play Golf until Gloria Jeans closes.

Diagram of a "Pour Over"
On our walk in, I had noticed some posters with a picture of a pregnant belly, backlit so you could make out the silhouette of the fetus. I asked what it said, which the rest of them were like “why are you asking?!” Because I want to know, duh. Apparently it’s something like “Doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl, it’s important to take care of the health of the woman and baby.” I forgot about that whole “preference for boys” thing, though apparently it’s fading as the years roll on.

At the subway nearby we find out that it’s closed. It’s CLOSED! At 11pm on a Wednesday night in one of the world's biggest cities! What! We say our goodbyes at the station when the cab pulls up, driving us the 20 minute ride home (50 RMB; ~10 CAD). Sunny is leaving back to Melbourne, but will likely be returning in August after she graduates. Hopefully I’ll be able to converse in Mandarin by then.

After an eventful day, we hit the hay.

Words of the day:
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
Big - dà
Spicy - là
Delicious - hǎochī [how chur]
Return - huìlài [hway lie]
See - kàn [kahn]

No comments:

Post a Comment