Saturday, March 22, 2008

Getting Directions in Chinese

This morning I wrote an essay, so by this afternoon I was ready to try to engage with the Chinese. One time recently when I was talking to Mrs. Xiong she told me that if I was ever free on the weekend, I should give her a call and come over.

When I called, she asked if I wanted to come over. I said sure, and she asked if I could come by myself. She had already told me that I could take the bus, so I was prepared for this question. I said sure, as long as she told me how to go. She said to take the 79 to--somewhere--and then change to the 56 until--somewhere else. I was a little fuzzy on the places that she wanted me to change to, but I had gotten as much information on the phone as I thought I could get. From there, it was the people of China who helped me get to the Xiongs.

I walked to the bus station near our apartment and started looking for the street that she had said I should change at. (I didn't actually need to know the street name, I just needed to know the direction, and then once I saw that the bus stop had 56 I could get off and change, but still.) This was a double difficulty because I wasn't confident that the name I repeated was the name she had said, plus I had to find characters that looked like they would match those sounds.

Examining the stops for route 79 didn't yield any results, so I had to ask somebody. I asked a kid standing there if he knew where I needed to go. He didn't, but a helpful businessman also at the stop decided to look. He couldn't find the name of the street either, so he asked if I could call my friend. I called Mrs. Xiong, he talked to her for a minute or two and determined which way I needed to go. He even scribbled directions down on a piece of paper for me.

When I got to the stop I needed to get off at, I realized why I hadn't been able to find it on the map. The stop wasn't the name of the street we were on. I then had to determine which stop to get off once I took the second bus. Again, the directions I had didn't match up to the stops on the board. I later realized that this was because I had the name of their complex and not the name of the stop. I asked a businessman, hoping he would be as helpful, and even though he didn't know, he shouted that there was a foreigner enough that somebody came to help me.

I rode that bus, got off, and walked across the street to their complex. I called Mrs. Xiong and tried to describe that I was at the front, but I wasn't really at the front because it was spread out pretty well and I didn't know where the entrance was. I described things enough that she could guide me. I was really happy that I had recently solidified which word was "right" and which was "left."

Finally I made it to their apartment, without a single word in English. After I had dinner at their house and watched the news in Chinese with Mr. Xiong, I decided to come back. Mrs. Xiong was really impressed that I thought I could get back by myself, but I thought that compared to going somewhere without instructions I understood, getting back was simple.

When it came time to change buses, I even got daring and took the number 12 because I knew it came back to our apartments. I freaked out for a minute during the ride because I thought maybe I had managed to catch it on its way out, but eventually I recognized where I was and everything was okay. I made it back home safe and sound, and even called Mrs. Xiong like she had asked to let her know I didn't get lost.

This was better than my ability to get around with clear directions in Orlando.


Anonymous said...

Yea! No English and you got there and back. You never cease to amaze me. Congratulations. Your Chinese must really be taking hold. And, I'm happy for you that so many people were helpful.
Love, Virginia

katiepenguins said...

I'll take my chances in English any day...