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.