Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 4 in Shanghai: Eating by Ourselves

Today we had a free day. A lot of people went to a museum, but I was all museum-ed out, so I decided to go to the Chinese bookstore nearby. I was surprised by its size--3 floors of Chinese books. I bought a little notebook in case I'm struck by a burst of inspiration and want to write a story. It only cost me 3.50, so that means I probably got ripped off a second time when I paid 2 kuai for a worse notebook in the watch lady's shop.

I managed to eat lunch by myself. There was a noodle place that looked like it had decent food, and after looking at the menu for two or three minutes, I found characters that I recognized--Giblin, hongshao niurou sounded obscure, but it's actually very useful. Restaurants in China have tight seating, so people sit by you and don't think anything of it. I said hi to the guys who sat next to me and we got into a conversation of all the typical stuff.

For dinner, Rebekah and I wandered around until we decided on Magaroni's. I couldn't tell whether it was a misspelling of "macaroni" or just a made-up name, but it was a sit-down place and there were Chinese inside, so I figured it probably wasn't that bad. We had a tough time ordering, and then the food was only mediocre, so the experience was only horse horse tiger tiger. That's me translating literally the phrase mama huhu, which means so-so. I think horse horse tiger tiger could be the next big slang phrase. Start using it with your friends now and we'll see how fast it spreads.

Anyway, I decided that the novelty of being able to communicate at all is wearing off and the frustration of not being able to communicate perfectly is setting in. In the restaurant, there were two girls next to us who were studying French, and Rebekah is fluent in French, so we tried to have a conversation. Their French was better than our Chinese, because when we couldn't figure out how to say something, we had better luck if Rebekah asked them in French. We were both tired of trying to be multilingual, though, and after a few minutes we both kind of gave up on the conversation. You reach a point where telling people that tomorrow you're flying to Chengdu and not taking a train is not worth the effort of talking.

I think it's good that I've hit this point now. I had a few days of being enthralled with Shanghai, and now I can rest a few days before class starts because I know what I'm going to be going into. At the same time, though, I'm really excited about the idea of eventually being able to talk to people, and overall I'm pretty upbeat about everything.


Virginga said...

Hi Will,
So glad to hear from you. When you say you are fininshed being entralled with communicating at all and are now frustrated, it reminds me of our trip to China in 1999. Not being able to communicate with anyone except the English speaking members of our tour was absolutely exhausting. Friends often ask if we enjoyed the trip. At first I would say yes hesitantly and was surprised at myself. Then I discovered that I enjoyed it more while reflecting back on it from home. That was all because of the language barrier.
I'm glad you have a couple of days to relax and rest. You've taken on a formidable task. I know you are up for it. We are all here to encouraged you when the going gets tough. Just remember going to Inspiration Point, Jackson, WY. when it was only "misting."
Love you lots, Virginia

mom said...

Just think of all the things you've done in this week that you have never done before- shopped in Chinese. Ordered a meal in chinese. talked with random strangers in chinese. found ways to stretch your measly vocabulary to enable you to get by. Already the trip has been an adventure, I'd say! Now that some of the glow of excitement has dimmed, you will be more able to face the hard work of studying. And hard work it is!! More characters will flow under your fingers and out of your brain than you thought possible.