Wednesday, September 24, 2008

dreaming of christmas time

Yesterday I had chestnuts (yes, roasting over an open fire) for the first time. In the middle of a busy intersection in Shanghai, no less.

Yeah, it doesn't make sense to me either. But neither does 85% of the stuff that happens to me in this country. I've just learned to go with the flow. Or to at least pretend to be going with the flow.

The chestnut vendors are all over the place and they all have scales where they weigh out your nuts and then point to the price for you to pay. I only wanted one chestnut, really, but the vendor insisted on filling my little bag even though I kept say no and pantomiming that I wanted him to put some back. I'm sure if I actually knew enough Chinese to tell him "I only want a little" it wouldn't have made much of a difference. For all I know there could be a minimum order or something.

Everything in China is a big production. I can understand why a lot of the other teachers here never leave their rooms. Shanghai is a scary place sometimes. Like at 6PM when the subway is over-packed with sweaty men wearing their shirts up over their bellies who rub against you as they exit.

China is definitely not a place to expect personal space. Ever.

What I mean by "big production", though, is that the smallest task takes forever and sometimes never even happens. I was without a cell phone (quelle horreur!) for four days because I couldn't figure out how to convey that I just needed a sim card for a phone I already owned (even when I brought the phone in they didn't get it).

But I don't expect the Chinese to "get" me. I don't expect them to bend over backwards for a silly, redheaded American who always says "xie xie" (thank you) after bumping into them with her cart in the grocery store when what she means to say is "duibuqi" (sorry). I don't even expect them to be patient with me when I try to speak to them in horribly pronounced Chinese (they always are, though).

I do expect, however, to not have to come up with a game plan every time I want to eat dinner. Or buy fruit at the market. Or mail some postcards at the post office. "Where do you want to eat?" brings shivers up my spine. "Do you want to take the bus?" is nauseating. "Which air freshener do you think will smell best?" gives me a headache.

These are all questions I ask myself, mind you. I'm not even trying to speak Chinese and they stress me out.

I think it's just a side effect of traveling. Everything seems more important and more stressful than it really is. Because, honestly, who really cares if I get the citrus or lavender Glade Plug-In?

I got the citrus, by the way.

4 comments:

KC said...

you have bigger balls than I do. I'd be the UA and hire an interpretor to do all the talking for me. ;)

Andy said...

Well you know, going to a country where you don't speak the language or aren't 'très douée' with it (sorry, the English doesn't come out easily these days)... It's always a pain.

Anonymous said...

where they weigh out your nuts

What if there isn't a scale strong enough?

Strawberry said...

kc - i've considered doing that

andy - ya...it's just a lot different if you're vacationing VS moving there, yknow?

anon - it was.