Day 52 - Impromptu Cultural Interview

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 - Clear Skies

Day 1 of going to the gym before work on my late days. I’m trying 8:30 as a safe estimate; wish me luck!

It’s not as cold as the days before, luckily, because a sweater and shorts wouldn’t have been enough. Aurora had told me a saying “you can experience all seasons in one day during beijing spring time.” True.

Eson, you crazy
(Note: Not written by Eson)
At the gym, there are some old men that are lifting... sort of. Bad range of motion and the sort of “get a sweat on and chat” sort of thing you’ll also find with older gym guys in the west. They absent mindedly watch me while I lift. Ignore them. Get in, get out. Shower, bus. Beautiful day today with good air quality. Ahhhh.

I'm really early. The caf only has a quarter of what it should. Guess I can sleep until 9 in the future. NonCarden Jack is eating alone, likely because he doesn’t have much class today and is trapped on campus. We talk about gyms, the strange beliefs about fitness we’ve come across here (like my less-meat-more-cardio ‘bulking’ friend) and how his gym closed for renovations without warning. As he put it: what’re you going to do? They have your money already. He leaves for the lounge, but I stick around.

I wait for my usual lunch buddies while I have a second helping of low-protein, high-oil vegetables. Bleh. I watch Jen, Wendy, and Aurora eat their lunch. Somehow the topic of bad words came up. I mentioned a story about Shimou’s brother saying “mǎo nà gè("are you buying this?" Literally: “buy this?”) which can sound like “my nigga.” We laughed about it. Jen asked Aurora if she knew the word. Yes, in fact. They taught it to her in school and told them never to say it to people. Well, that’s good. I’ve heard things about Chinese people being racist. Glad to know it’s at least not overt. The word “goof” was also mentioned, which, if you didn’t know, means “child molester” among men in prison. You call someone a goof in prison? Insta-fight.

Aurora taught me the word “suí biàn” which means “whatever” and is used in exactly the same way, more or less. Whatever. We part ways when I go to the teachers lounge to study Mandarin. I proceed to not study mandarin, as I speak with Jack, who had gone there ahead of me. I did get to practice it a little, though, asking the café workers what time they close. Here’s what I had to work with: Nǐmén jīntiān jǐ diǎn guān mén? I’m not sure the direct translation, but it’s something like "you (plural) today what time close doors?" I said it right the first time, thank god, but then they decided to tell me their weekly schedule. They close at bā diǎn sānshí. 8 hour 30. I didn’t catch it the first couple times, then they complicated it by saying Monday through Thursday they close at 8:30, Friday they close at 2pm.  It was a farce. This was also after I ordered lěng shǔi (cold water). I’ve ordered it before, but this time they corrected me, lìang shǔi, which I misheard as the alternate word for 2 (èr and liǎng both mean 2 in different contexts).

Eson's Money he forgot.
Oh, and a note one of the girls gave me.
Long story short on that second bit: liàng shǔi is cold drinking water, while lěng shǔi is cold water for cooking. I didn’t know people would make that distinction. Somewhere in the mix, Dan invited me to get jiaozi again after work some time, like we had on Day 24. It seems I’m slowly making more friends, which is good. Was feeling a little lonely there for a bit, but that all depends on the day.

Coaching the class for the open house went well! I was totally worrying for no reason! Go Joy’s class! Then… the second class. Bunny runs a tight ship. The word I used to describe her on the evaluation was “stern,” with a “very” in front of it. Despite her herculean efforts, the class is still in disarray at times. It was painful for both them and me. I like the ability to be light, getting what’s done with some fun, and pretending to be strict. Instead, I am forced to actually be strict. Why? Again, their parents will be here on Friday.

Dinner after class with Aurora, Helena, and Jen. With two of my Chinese tutors in front of two people who want to learn Mandarin, the conversation inevitably draws toward Mandarin. They try to speak to us in their native tongue, but it’s usually too fast for me. Helena and Jen depart, leaving me and Aurora. We were supposed to have a lesson, but she forgot that she had to work out with her mother-in-law. Something tells me she’s not in a hurry to get there. Can’t blame her, really, given what I've heard about Chinese in-laws.

Conversation turns to the south-east sea (contested territory) because she mentioned how some of the students say they “hate Japan.” When she asked them why, they said “because they will kill us!” Interesting. I play at being Socrates, asking loaded/leading questions just to see what kind of answers I’ll get. She said that the south-eastern sea is Chinese. Why? History books clearly show that it’s Chinese. Who wrote these history books? China. Suppose there’s ¥200 on the table and a person were to wander up to us. You say it’s yours, I say it’s mine. Who should they believe? They can’t know, right? I was careful not to assert that anything was one way or the other, pure curiosity. Truthfully, I have no idea what the ‘real’ situation is.

The Marching Band Practicing
She tells me a little about Chairman Mao, and how the party that opposed him was terrible. He may have done some bad things, but everything was worth it in the end for the good he achieved. Ends justify the means. I teach her that phrase, and the phrase “history is written by the victors.” I felt like I skirted the edge of her comfort a little bit, so I backed off and told her to let me know if she was offended.

Another interesting point she made was that China has never invaded another country, contrasting China with Japan. I asked how China got so big if it never invaded anywhere, and she said that areas joined by choice. I asked if every area had been willing to join, or if any parts may have been...kind of... persuaded to do so. No real answer, but I think she got my point.

Last main point: she said something that sounded like Japanese, and she said that the Japanese had "stolen" it from the Chinese. In truth, Japanese, the language, has it’s roots in Chinese. Well, so I’ve been told by Shimou, who studied it in her undergrad and did an exchange there. If I had to guess, Japanese people probably have ancestry that began in regions that would one day become China, and suggested this to Her. She pondered it, and said she didn’t know where they came from, though it seemed to soften her view a little bit. I pointed out that if "stealing" language was a bad thing, then English is a serious offender - latin, germanic, norwegian languages and many, many more). I also taught her the phrase “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Maybe, just maybe, they admired the Chinese and wanted to emulate them in certain respects.

Get home, call Shimou and tell her about the conversation. She says I might be mean for talking about these things. Again, I’m not actually trying to persuade, I just want to know what the thought process is. I don’t have many Chinese friends outside of Shimou’s circle, so I find it enlightening.

Since it’s a holiday this weekend (apparently), DnD is cancelled and they offered another game today. Sure, I’ll bite. Quickly prep the coffee and write half of today, then meet Bob at the train station. We cab it over and he tells me more about the gaming community that I know little about.
I love that they need a sign "No Spitting" on every floor of this building

[Nerd On]

This is a separate game from the last one, with only me and Bob playing characters, with one of the other guys, Louie, running the game. Louie's girlfriend, Ana, was going to play, but got busy with something else.

The game session wasn’t bad, and started faster than the other one thanks to me picking a Monk. I’m a blind, charlatan, troll monk. I scam people and was blinded because of a scam gone wrong. While running away, I was taken in by a monastery I thought I could scam, but saw the benefit of their physical training. Sticking around, pretending to follow their beliefs, they eventually gave me the opportunity to transfer to a city. Perfect time to make my escape and find some way of upward mobility.

He takes me to a bar where we meet a guide, Ricky the Rat. While he’s trying to convince us to take one of his city tours, another troll starts a fight with us and we get thrown in jail. We were set up, it seems, but the guard recruits us to take on a difficult mission and make us honorary city watch. Thing is, the city watch is a joke and the city is run by the thieves guild and assassins guild, who police themselves. Whatever.

We get jumped, again, after buying supplies and serve it to them. After the fight, we’re going to leave town.

[Nerd Off]

Around 12:30, it’s probably time to go since I have to cab home and wake up at 6:40am. They help me get a cab, and I ride home. Some open invitations were offered for me to check out a few places around town with them, and for Bob’s birthday this weekend.

We shall see.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
Close - guān (gwan)
Door - mén (men)

No comments:

Post a Comment