Day 110 - Trial By Fire

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3 Mountains

Cultural Questions

The difference between a leader and a follower (or maybe just an entrepreneur and an employee) is the ability to be able to deal with ambiguity. So I've heard. I've also heard that Chinese people need plans and will get quite stressed when there isn't one in place, of some form or another. This includes low stakes. Does this tie in with obedience to authority? Does rebellion against authority make one face ambiguity more often and develop more leadership skills? Lots of questions and few answers. This makes me want to go back to the idea of opening my own research foundation. That ol’ pipe dream. 

It's weird here sometimes, especially if the above is true. For the students, they aim to achieve leadership roles and responsibilities, but are still not true leaders because they have to appease the teachers, and simply enforce rules that are imposed on them. It's like student council: it's a figurative role. Some just seem to enjoy the power of telling their classmates what to do.

Sit up, Terry!

First class was frantically writing what they need to know for the test on the board because I forgot to photocopy, barely having enough time for them to write it all down. They whined a lot, and with reason, so I only erased one star for it. 

Second Class was cakewalk of them practicing their recitations and doing homework.

Slang Game

At lunch, I played a game with Helena. I'd introduce a slang term and she'd have to guess it. The two choice words were: “dime piece” and “crunk.” In case you aren’t sure, a “dime piece” is an extremely attractive woman (a 10, aka a dime), and crunk = crazy + drunk. This would probably make a decent episode of a show, having multilingual people from several countries try to guess what slang means. Helena also told me that my language skills are actually impressive. I accept the compliment, though part of me wonders if she’s simply encouraging me to keep going. I don’t have much of a choice, anyway, but it’s kind of her to do.

After School

When leaving my building, I’m reminded of the dirty side of china as I step over a puddle of (presumably) dog piss in the doorway of my apartment’s lobby. One dog’s owner let them piss there, and now every damn dog in the apartment thinks it’s a good idea to mark it.

Dumplings and Stares

Shimou isn’t coming here tonight because she’s just flying back from a business trip to some other part of China. I wander down to get some street jiaozi. I try to enjoy the combination of food and stares that come my way. Then comes a situation that isn’t my favorite even in my own language: I’m put not the spot in front of a group of strangers. I… think he said “how was it?” so I just said “hǎochī” (delicious) and gave a thumbs up. I walked away, not waiting for a response. My confidence in mandarin isn’t high enough at the moment to try and struggle through.

More Mandarin

At the massage parlor, I arrive unannounced and find that I have to wait. Luckily, I know time words better (thanks to Helena’s classes), and realize that “sì shí fēnzhōng” means 40 minutes. In the past, I probably would've just stared blankly and shrugged. In any case, I'm not in a hurry, and welcome the wait. Time to relax.

Mandarin Massage

I luck out and get the girl who really gets in there and fixes your knots. It’s painful as all hell, but it works. Also helps build pain tolerance. During the massage, we attempt a conversation. She asks what zhōngwén (chinese) I know. yí diàr diàr (a little bit). “Nǐ hǎo, xìe xìe?” (hello, thank you?) “wǒ zhīdaò gèng dūo de” which is probably bad grammar, but sort of gets the message of “I know more.” We then continue to have an awkward exchange that keeps running into walls. One of which is when I tried to say that I was sick last week. “Shàng zhōu” is literally “up week,” but means last week. Zhōu, I am certain of, and is easy enough to pronounce.. yet she keeps mishearing me as saying xiāngjiāo - banana. Well, at least I now know banana.

Language Barriers

When the massage is over, I pull out my phone to show her the character for week (zhōu) and she thinks I'm asking for her wechat. Well, don’t want to offend her, so I take it. I then show her the character (she’s not entirely blind), and causes even more confusion. She calls her english-speaking friend, who asks what I want. “Uh, nothing?” She ends up apologizing and leaving, embarrassed. Haha, language barriers.

Leaving the building, I see some girls trying to get into the maglocked gate. I’m leaving, so I have to let them in either way. They thank me, and I respond “you’re welcome” (bù kì qì) to which they’re all like “What! You speak Chinese!” I’m guessing my pronunciation for that one sentence was decent.

Trial by fire over. At least I know I can sort of survive with the mandarin I’ve got. As I’ve said before, language learning is a rollercoaster of “I’m never going to get this” and small breakthroughs that encourage you to keep going.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
[she-ang jee-ow]

No comments:

Post a Comment