Category Archives: China

Weird work experience

I was invited by a vendor at Microsoft to come sit in during an "English corner"… Anyway, it ended up that most of it was led by this American college guy that worked for the vendor that’s been in the country for about 6 months…  The purpose was to help the Chinese vendors practice speaking English. The topic was fast food…  He ended up doing most of the talking…  He opened up his favorite fast food website (Taco Bell), then his facebook page that showed thousands of partying pictures.  Then a surreal thing happened…..  He started talking about how in America, Chinese restaurants are the only ones open during Christmas.  Then he went to youtube and found the "Christmas Story" clip of the Chinese restaurant scene where the restaurant workers are singing "Fa ra ra ra".  To an office FULL OF NATIVE CHINESE PEOPLE!
I was a bit shocked… It’s like if I walked into the Microsoft office in Nigeria, and showed a clip of blackface from the 1920’s, then busted up laughing…
Luckily, the Chinese people are a restrained people and kept their Kung Fu in check.   They at least have the decency to save their mockery of this joker until he was out of the room. 
I talked to him afterwards and told him that, that was a bit out there to show that to a room full of Chinese people.  His response was that they love it… (In my recollection, there was no laughter… )  This vendor company may need cultural sensitivity training more than English training…
Also, we got talking about Mexican Food.  One Chinese girl squinted her face and asked, "Is it true that they eat insects?"  Both the American guy and I were stumped.  The only thing that I could think was maybe the worm that they put in the bottom of Tequila sometimes… I did mention that much of the Olympic coverage of Chinese food was about eating scorpions and spiders on a stick… They all agreed that nobody eats that… (Apparently, except Mexicans… )  It did feel a bit as if the irony was lost…

In the swing of things

Our confidence is definitely increasing.  We are starting to very much enjoy some of the benefits of living in China.  One of our favorite things is the delicious fruit.  I hit KFC last night for dinner.  They didn’t really have the buckets of chicken that we’re used to… so I just pointed at the only picture of a bucket that looked like there was chicken in it.  It was kind of a chicken wing combo… and it came with fried fish…  It was pretty good, but Tenille noted that the fish still had the skin on it which grossed her out… oh well… more for me…  The only problem I had was that apparently this deal came with some soda, and since I don’t normally drink soda, I wanted diet coke for Tenille… I could not convey the term diet to the people that were working there…   So, I just came home with a bottle of Pepsi. 
We attended church today with no real problems.  Hopped in a cab.  I pointed at a map, and the taxi driver looked skeptical.  He asked me if I knew where I was going.  My wife picked up on this quicker than I did… and finally I answered in Chinese, "Wo zhi dao" (I know)… and we were off… I used more of my mad hand-signalling skills, and got to church in 5 minutes.  Actually, I don’t think we’re really communicating that much better.. but I think we’re just getting more used to the idea that we’re pretty incompetent and becoming less ashamed of it… I’m not too proud to pantomime, sir…  that’s just the way I roll…
Two things of note:  1.  I’m sure we’ll be eating some strange foods out here… I thought it was worth noting that last week, I shared a duck tongue with Caleb.  Tasted a bit weird, but it was just meat…  Caleb started gnawing on the duck head, but it was pretty much all bone, and I had to call him off… that’s my boy… 2.  Karlin, my neighbor, gave me an assignment to find anything in China that is actually made in the US.  I assume pirated copies of Windows (or any other software for that matter, doesn’t count….)  I saw a Harley Davidson Store with a Harley in it.  You don’t make those in China… Well… you probably don’t assemble them in China… (I’m sure a lot of components are actually made in China.)  But as far as I’m concerned – Mission Accomplished.

Hollywood for lunch

Big milestone for us.  We decided we needed something quick for lunch.  Our friend, Curt, recommended Hollywood (which is a fast food restaurant) about 1 block from our apartment.  He said it was the Chinese version of a Korean version of western food.  I didn’t fully understand what that meant, but I ran over for some takeout.  There were pictures of food pasted all over the store – bibimbap (Korean mixed rice), Teriyaki Chicken, Chicken-katsu (breaded cutlet), hamburger steak, eel and rice, rice omelette, curry and rice, etc, etc.  I was the only customer and two ladies stood behind a counter ready to take orders.  I called Tenille and described to her what was available.  She picked Chicken and Mushroom.  I took a deep breath, and stepped up to the counter to order.  I said, I didn’t speak very well (in my best Chinese)… The lady smiled and said something.  I was hoping it was something like "It’s ok."  What I really need to learn is, "I don’t speak very well, and I won’t be able to understand a word you say."  She whipped out a laminated menu with pictures and English on it.  I didn’t see the Chicken and Mushroom, so I walked over to the sign and started pointing at the chicken and mushroom.  She came over and waved her hand in my face, then turned the sign around.  I assumed that meant it was unavailable.  So, I substituted Teriyaki Chicken (a safe choice, I thought.)  I pointed to three different menu items saying the word "this", "this", and "this".  She nodded her head.  Then she pointed to the prices.  There were two prices.  My general rule of thumb is always pick the cheap one.  So that’s what I did.  I figured out, that she was saying, small or big.  I had ordered the small.  The entire order came to 70 RMB ($10).  I waited about 5-10 minutes, and they had a bag ready for me to go.  I brought it home, and it was probably the quickest we’ve made and eaten a meal hands down.  And the food was delicious. 
This was a turning point for me.  I can do this.  Cheap good food a block away from our house, and all I have to know for next time is the word for small and big.  It’s hard to describe the sense of empowerment from just being able to go out and grab some takeout.