Although we’ve been getting used to and comfortable with the idea that we’re completely incompetent here, we had a small victory today. Normally, when we want to go somewhere, do something, order something, etc, we’d go down to the front desk at the apartment and ask them to do it for us.
For instance, if we wanted to go to the zoo, we would ask the apartment front desk to write “zoo” in chinese on a small card. This card (which we call the Incompetent card (or IC)) also has the address back to our apartment as well as a phone number. We would then wander out into the street, grab a taxi, and hand the driver the IC. He would nod, then drive us to what is hopefully the zoo. When the driver stops, we pay him and get out. No words are really spoken except perhaps some pantomiming now and then.
Today, we hit a big milestone. I was determined on not using the IC. When we caught our taxi, I said in my best Chinese, “We would like to go to Hepingli Street and Xibahe street.” The cab driver nodded and started driving. Tenille and I looked at each wondering if this was really going to work. When I saw our church building, I said, “Big building, there!” He pointed at it, then said something I didn’t understand. Is it really going to happen, I thought to myself… He slowed down in front of the church building, but didn’t stop. Tenille and I both yelled in Chinese “Here! Here!” He stopped. YES! We did it!! I unloaded the kids and Tenille paid the cab driver. Tenille did want me to mention that as the taxi driver handed her the receipt, she meant to say, “Thank you.” But, “You’re welcome” came out. The cab driver gave her a funny look. It wasn’t a perfect 10, but it was like gliding down the street for the first time after taking off your training wheels. It’s amazing how such a little thing can make you feel so liberated.
I had to stay after church today for home teaching, so Tenille took the kids home earlier. Later, I went home on the subway to complete my card-free day! Getting home is much more difficult because the address of our apartment is not a well known street. I’ve often had to whip out a map or tell the cab driver the closest subway stop (SanYuanQiao). If I just tried to tell the cab driver the address, undoubtedly he’d start firing away questions to which I would have a blank look in response. I think my strategy is to tell them to go to the Silver Tower which is a highrise building on the main street that we live behind. I figure I can pantomime my way in from there… I’ll keep you posted when I have my card free taxi ride to the apartment. That would indeed be a pretty big accomplishment.
I think a good goal for me is to be completely card free and independent of the apartment people over the next 3 months or so. It’s kind of fun because all the things that I’m used to taking for granted is gone when it comes to communication, and every little thing is a small victory. When you’re starting from the bottom, little victories are easy. I think a good goal would be to be able to get around the entire city without using these cards anymore. Honestly, it would feel like breaking out of a wheel chair and being able to run.
What makes it tricky is that it doesn’t seem like Beijing has addresses like the U.S., where there’s a number and a street name. I’ve noticed that sometimes, the address contains things like “Between this and this landmark” or “Behind this building.” It’s more like directions on a treasure map than an address. It’s different, but hopefully we’ll get accustomed to it…
I’ve heard rumors that the ward might think we’re useless since we’re 6-monthers… which might make me a shoe in for primary (children’s) pianist (my dream assignment…) I know we’re not supposed to ask or deny callings… but I suppose it’s ok to admit enjoying certain church duties….
Coming up this week:
Monday (my day off) – Forbidden City.
Tuesday – First day of officially going into the office for Don. First day of Preschool for Caleb.
Saturday (Valentine’s Day Dance) – The activity committee is putting the elder’s quorum (men’s group) in charge of bringing drinks, salad, dessert, and appetizers. You know it’s a ward that believes in miracles when they put the men in charge of pulling off a valentine’s day event. For this event, we also need to find a baby sitter. The apartment says that they have a baby sitting service. I’m not usually one to trust my kids with perfect strangers, but in general everyone we’ve met seems to adore kids which has increased our confidence a bit.