Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Land

I posted the following few things to Facebook over the past couple of days, and just realized duh, I have a blog where I should be capturing these things. Years from now I want to be able to remember what it was like being a stranger in a strange land...

Saturday, April 28th, 7:32pm
It's funny how this place is starting to feel more and more homey... I'm starting to recognize people on the street that I've met in random places, and am able to hold simple conversations with them in Chinese, and am actually making some friends. All of the fruit and veggie vendors that I visit help me practice my Chinese and laugh (kindly) at my poor pronunciations. And I get a kick out of my neighbors who are sitting outside when I get back from buying fruits/veggies... they always grab at my bags, open them up and look inside to see what I bought, and then they either make a thumbs up and tell me "mmm" or "hao hao hao" (good good good) or sometimes they make an icky face and shake their head to tell me they don't like it. It's hilarious. I love how it's totally acceptable to put your hands all over someone else's food here, because they know everyone washes the heck out of whatever they intend to eat. I'm always seeing people dip their hands into the big bags of rice at the market to feel the grains. Reminds me of the scene in Amelie with the beans (it was beans, right?). You have to admit, it feels pretty darn good.

Sunday, April 29th, 1:00am
Just got back from my very first karaoke night at KTV (Karaoke Television) with a bunch of my Chinese teacher coworkers, the first of many I've been informed. And it was a blast. KTV is an interesting place…it's a pretty big building full of very small rooms, and you pay to rent a room for you and your friends, instead of having to sing your heart out to a bunch of strangers. And they deliver beer and snacks to your room for however long you're there. They do have some songs in English, which I was coerced into singing (I learned I can totally rock the "head shoulders knees and toes" song since I do that at school with the kids from time to time, and "Stand By Me"), but most of the songs are in Chinese of course, so it was fun to listen to my coworkers sing while I followed along trying to learn the words for each Chinese character on the big TV screen. The other popular thing to do while you're out with friends at a bar or wherever is to play this dice game (not sure what it's called) but it's a dice drinking game. Thank goodness the beer here is very very light. After everyone was full of beer and singing, we walked down the street to an outdoor late night "restaurant" which is just a big open sidewalk area where they set out a bunch of tables and chairs and a few food vendors roll their carts up and dish out some food, so we all had various types of rice porridge. Yum!

Monday, April 30th, 6:30am
The kindness of strangers keeps surprising me and making me so extremely happy and thankful. Yesterday I was out riding my bike and it started to rain as I was making my way back home, then the rain became heavier and heavier until I could barely see. Then I realized I was lost. I pulled over to the curb to ask a stranger what street we were on (since most of the street names are in Chinese characters only) and he was on his cell phone and sort of standing under this big sign for shelter, so I just waited there a few feet away, hoping he would be finishing his call soon. I think I waited about ten or so minutes and the guy was still talking, and there was no one else walking by who I could ask, and I'm pretty sure the guy on the phone was probably saying to his friend, "Dude, just keep talking…there's this foreigner standing out in the rain just staring at me all creepy-like…just keep talking…" Thank goodness a woman walked nearby and I shouted hello in Chinese and she shouted back in English "hello, can I help you?" AHHH YAY! How lucky is that?! She led me inside a nearby shopping center and even drew me a map! She even insisted on writing the Chinese characters for all of the street names. Thank you, kind stranger!

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