Day 84 - Minor Celebrity

Sunday, May 1st, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Skype date with my cousin and his girlfriend. It runs a bit long, but I enjoyed catching up and getting some SEO advice from them. Drew, my cousin, had been a big help in the last couple weeks I was in Canada, and we haven't spoken as much since I'd left. Next up leave to Chaoyang Park

Chinese Family

In the cab ride over, Shimou says that she likes to hear me talk with my family. She says that we seem to respect each other and communicate well, unlike Chinese people. She feels that Chinese people are too close to their family - so close that they seem to lose the need to be civil or polite with one another. “They just act however they want,” she said.

"INSANE Boat Rentals!" It (probably) says!
Adding some cousin symmetry, I go from speaking with one of mine to hanging out with one of hers, complete with his wife and daughter. They don’t speak much English, but seem like funny people. I can loosely follow, and am able to say some basic phrases that seem to be slowly expanding with the weeks. We rent a boat and slowly motor around the park’s lakes.

Boating in Chaoyang

Her cousin is first to drive, but offers it up to Shimou. She hasn’t driven much in her lifetime. We crash a couple times into other boats. “It’s hard!” she protests when I tease her. My turn, since she’s had enough and I can’t understand the conversation anyway. Smooth sailing. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to drive anything. The smog is thick today, yet I seem to be one of the only people I can see - on land or boat - that’s wearing a mask. Then again, I am a lǎo wài (Foreigner; Literally: old outsider)

Pure Carnage

The Gang Gettin' on the Wee Boat
The main thing that makes it difficult to avoid crashing is that a lot of people seem to be letting their children drive. I’m talking 3-5 year olds behind the wheel of these slow-powered boats. Explosions, screams, and death fill the air - annoying distractions to me. Wénwén, Shimou’s “niece”, laughs with morbid delight.

Hidden Gems

While we enjoy our trip through the Smoke Smog On The Water, Shimou’s cousin tells us that he has a friend who owns a vietnamese mountain, and could probably get us a line on cheap gemstones. “Do you think we could sell that in Canada?” she asks. Uh... YES!

Post-boating, post-driving, we arrive at a traditional Beijing Restaurant. There are men wearing the traditional garb, shouting very, very, very loudly. The front guy shouts, the back guys respond. Annoying, given that we’re posted within 10 feet of the front guy.

Guys in white responded to the guy just behind my right shoulder
Foodie Indulgences

Her cousin is a bit of a foodie, ordering an assortment of dishes for us to try - and he really wants me to try all of it. “Put this in your mouth, take a mouthful of this broth, then bite this thing.” I do as I’m instructed. “Wasabi.” He says, handing me this yellow-sauce covered lettuce leaf, "small bite!" he warns. I put it all in my mouth and immediately have a clear nose. There’s a time for caution, and there’s a time for humorous exploration. Both feet first!

A bowl of noodles arrives with 5-6 small plates around it. The staff dumps them all into the noodles in front of us, and gives this salty pork-soy sauce/oil mixture for us to add at our discretion. Mix it on up. Delicious!

Clockwise, Starting Left: Deep-fried Pork Balls; Cucumbers in Sauce; "Sausage";
"Smashed Eggplant" with Peanut/Sesame Sauce; Deep fried dough slices; Tiny, crispy shrimp;
Strange pork/nut globules; Wasabi Lettuce/cabbage; Center: battered, fried eggplant.

Chinglish Confusion

Easing it in
“Not happy,” Wén Wén says in to me in English. “Bù gāo xìng?" (not happy?) I inquire. Duì (right), but I can't understand the reason. Her parents say she is happy, but more excited because Shimou is there. She’s an adorable little girl who likes to talk. She speaks to me in full sentences at max speed and I have no idea what is torrenting out of this princess dress-crown combo.

We return to our car an hour later, and pay for parking - ¥8 ($1.57 CAD /$1.22 USD). Not bad. They drive us to our location and drop us off to walk a short distance to the walking street, where we’ll be meeting Silvia in a while.

Being Too Close

Shimou tells me that her cousin kept calling her “big fatty,” and teasing her. She says that it makes her even more annoyed because “he's fat, too!” He was also calling her something like “dà zhuàng,” which means “big strong.” This is a compliment for a man, but an insult for a woman in China. Carden Jen had made the mistake before when she complimented her coworker’s “strong legs.”

This seems to be an example of family being disrespectfully close, as Shimou had mentioned earlier.

Book of Loooooove
The two of us wait in a coffee shop until Silvia arrives. This area of town has a lot of tourists, so the cafe worker tries to initiate in English. I insist on ordering in Mandarin and get exactly what we wanted. Success!

Book of Love

Silvia arrives late for the movie, and I tease Shimou that “like attracts like.” The movie itself was surprisingly good, as I haven’t seen many Chinese films. It was a 2h drama with at least two times where both of my female companions cried. After the film Shimou declared it to be an “OK” movie. I thought it was better than that, myself, especially with such a stupid name: Book of Love*.

We Don't Eat Fish 

Silvia really wants to go to a particular restaurant, and she can be very insistent when she wants something. We nearly get hit by a bus while crossing the street. In the restaurant, Shimou excused herself to the bathroom. Silvia insists that we should get a fish-head soup dish, which I’m not entirely sure about, and don’t know if Shimou's down. I protest, telling her that Westerners don’t eat fish. Silvia - who has lived in America for 6 years - was confused, and thought “but you guys go fishing...” I respond with a question: Why do you think they call it ‘catch and release?”
"Fish Head Soup" or some similar name

Shimou returns and wonders why we haven’t ordered yet. Silvia explains that I don’t eat fish, also confusing Shimou for a moment. I deny ever having had fish.** Finally, I asked Silvia if she ever saw Sushi in America. Yes, she had. There you go - I'm lying.

No Why

After dinner, we stroll along Tiananmen street, passing through all the locals and foreigners. At one point we come across a gate where the guard tells us to go around, but is letting everyone go through the opposite way. “bù wéi shén me” I say, meaning “no why.”  At least, not an obvious one. We soon see that there’s a bag scanner on the way in. Ah, makes sense now.

Minor Celebrity

At one point, group of Chinese people asked Shimou if she was with me, and wonder if they can take a picture with me. Of course! They were super grateful, to the point of the guy holding my one hand with both of his and bowing repeatedly, saying “xiè xiè, xiè xiè!(thank you, thank you). “Bù ke qǐ(you’re welcome) I respond.

Eventually, we catch an uber and go our separate ways.

Smashed eggplant with peanut sauce
Pork, flour Sausage 
Cousin says that chinese people are getting worse, more like that phrase “Hate those who have; laugh at those who don’t” 

*I didn't find out until afterward, but Shimou comes with me to all of the superhero movies. It's only fair.
**I had eaten it Saturday afternoon, which Shimou had made for me.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]

Editing Music
Childish Gambino
(I have been obsessed with this song in a number of disconnected periods - and I don't usually like rap)

No comments:

Post a Comment