My indignance will keep me warm

Seattle is not scarf country; people here wear scarves purely as an accessory.  It doesn’t usually get cold enough here to require the thermal protection your neck needs, but even when it does, we seattleteca are never out for that long.

Once it a while someone will put on a scarf just to go with their outfit (not me, of course), or maybe they will travel into scarf territory, and they’ll tie their scarf into that jaunty fashion parisian knot, like you see president Beckham wearing here, on the right.  Look at him, his neck can see daylight, and it seems that his shirt is unbuttoned… that scarf is form, not function. Jerk.

Almost never will you see a Seattlite with a scarf in proper Level 5 Blizzard Protection Mode, the kind where you start wrapping your scarf tightly around your neck before you put your coat on, and then you don’t expose the slightest part of your neck for fear that your skin will freeze, crack, fall into an artery, and drift into your aorta and kill you.

That’s the way I wear a scarf; Level 5 Blizzard protocol.  I think I became a neck wimp in France when I was studying there; when I flew back afterward, my mama noticed that my scarf was not terribly attractively wrapped but that there were three tight layers of it between my skin and the deadly atmosphere.  Later when I was in grad school in Ann Arbor they would have weather advisories where they’d tell you that if you exposed any skin for a certain number of seconds, you would get frost bite and die.

So I don’t screw around with fashion scarves or jaunty knots, I do not give the slightest crap about that.  I wear a scarf to keep the cold off my neck, and when it’s really cold, I’ve got it wrapped around my face and ears as well. To this day, I look at people who tie their scarves over their coats instead of under them, and pity those poor fools… fashion victims.

One particularly cold winter in Shanghai, it was so deadly cold that the wind seemed to blow right through my scarf.  I remember not wanting to go outside.  Meanwhile Kiwi J kept proposing to walk to a different bar or a different restaurant and I of course followed him into the cold, but cursed him the entire time.  One time though, we got to a bar and I saw his secret: double scarf.

Hey, that’s my friend’s photo!

DOUBLE SCARF.  How had I not thought of that?  The entire time that dude was double scarfing.  I expressed my wonder and amazement and genuine admiration for my friend and this brilliant winter coping strategy.  I think he thought I might have been making fun of him because he didn’t seem to be too impressed with my amazement; either that. or he had double scarfed unintentionally due to absent mindedness or alcohol impairment.  Both of those explanations are likely.  Regardless, I thought it was brilliant, and I cannot overemphasize what an important winter revelation that was to me.

Ok, if you’ve made it through all the boring rambling, here’s the China story…

So every Sunday I had dinner out in Pudong with my Seattle friends; it was a lovely weekly tradition we had.  It was quite a long trek out there, and it was actually better to take the subway, as taking a cab was often slower.  So it happened that I wasn’t wearing a scarf; I don’t think at that point I even owned a scarf.  I had been deceived by a warm afternoon, but once the sun went down, the cold air on my wimpy neck started to feel like death.

Luckily for me, my destination subway station was Science & Technology museum, a stop which had an extensive market built underground, right in the station.  I would be able to pick up a nice scarf right there.

So I walked off the train and in to the market and I thought, I hate bargaining, so I will just decide now to pay 40 kuai for a scarf and get on with my life.  That’s about $6 USD and it’s expensive.  But who cares, right?  I need a scarf, I don’t want to sit there and haggle… I was in a hurry to a) get out of the cold and b) get to dinner.  So 40 kuai, I told myself.  In the fabric market, they are listed as 35 kuai, no bargaining, so I know that 40 kuai was probably double what they were worth.

So I walked through the market to look for some scarves; I was a little surprised that there weren’t more available.  Maybe it was still too early in the fall.

Finally I found a scarf shop, and I walked up to the scarves and started picking one out.  A moment later the shop owner came out and said “these are scarves” because Chinese shop owners have this custom of talking to like you’re blind, or you’re an idiot, and I know it’s a scarf, dammit, that’s why I’m looking at it. Keep up, pengyou, I’m way ahead of you.

So I’m ignoring him, and he’s pointing out all the stupid colors of scarves he has, as if I was blind.  In the mean time, I’m ignoring him, and pawing through to find the one I want.  I found one that was a cool blue, and nice and wide, like a blanket.  So I pull the packet out and drop it on the glass counter.  I want to pay 40 kuai, but I’m a sucker,right?  So at that moment I reconcile with myself that I’ll probably pay as much as 60 kuai, three times what I think it’s worth, just to get a scarf and move on with my life.  It would be way more expensive in the US anyway.

So I drop it on the glass case and in my dead serious, I’m in a hurry-voice, I said, 这条多少钱? This one, how much?  My wallet is open in my hand, and I’m leafing through the bills, ready to pull out 80 kuai, because dammit I just want to get out of there.

The shop owner looks me straight in the eye.  一百八十块, he says.

I look at him and do a double take.  And then I repeat what he said, just to see if I was hearing right.  一百八十块钱。  I didn’t say it like a question, I said it like, this is a joke right?

Yes, he says.  And then in English “one hundred eighty yuan.”

I gave him a quick look of hatred, picked up the scarf off the counter and threw it back down and it one motion turned and walked out of there.  It’s one thing to play the bartering game, but this guy looked me in the eye and quoted me a price like I was some kind of idiot.  I was personally insulted.  How am I supposed to get down to 40 from 180?  What a pile of shit.  I walked down the long hallway toward the exit, and I walked hard; marching band hard, angry hard walking so that he would have to run to catch up with me.

Go to hell, I thought, but could not say. Go to hell.

I think he waited a while to see if I would turn and come back, or if I’d look for a scarf in another shop.  In any case, I was pretty far down when I heard him call, in Chinese.  “Ok, 100 kuai!”

What am I supposed to do?  Am I supposed to turn around?  I was not playing a game, I was ANGRY.  If he wanted to play the game, he should have started at 70.  I kept walking.

I kept walking, and he kept calling, “90!  80!  70! 60!” was already way down the hall when I heard him call after me.

“50!” he called, “40!  30 ok!”

What a dick.  I kept walking.

“20 ok!  10 ok!”

So we all know that a vendor will never lose money; he’ll never quote a price lower than what he paid himself.  This pile of crap paid less than 10 kuai for that scarf, and then looked me in the eye like I was some kind of idiot and had the gall to say 180.

I kept walking, and he called out “10 kuai ok!” a few more times.  No, dude, eat dirt.   My indignance will keep me warm.

I turned the corner, went up the escalator, and emerged on the grand plaza and walked briskly toward the taxi line.  My neck was cold but I was too angry to care.

Of course, from my point of view, I’m the hero of this story and the scarf-jerk is the villain.  You must know, though, that the scarf-jerk tells the same story to his friends, and in his version, he’s the hero and I’m the uptight foreigner, who doesn’t know how things work, and has no sense of humor.

Here’s how things work in Mainland China:  people won’t steal from you or shake you down.  However they will look you in the eye lie to your face, and if you are stupid enough to go along with it, then they deserve your money; they earned it.  You gave up your money freely, and you’re probably rolling in cash anyway, so why wouldn’t they try to take you.

A few weeks later I bought that scarf at the fabric market for 35 kuai, under a sign that said “35 kuai, no haggling, the price is already low.”  I know now that I could have got them for less than half of that, but I was happy to save myself the aggravation.

A few weeks after that, when it really started to get cold, I bought another scarf; thinner, longer, same color scheme though, so I could double scarf like my scarf mentor Kiwi J.   It’s a good thing, too; I double scarfed through most of the Snowpocalypse of 2010 in Manhattan.

I’m back in Seattle and it’s not scarf country here, but occasionally I get cold and throw one on.  When I was back in Shanghai this summer I went to the fabric market and pawed through all the 35 kuai/no haggle scarves; there was even a lady there who wanted to explain all the colors to me, like I was blind or something.  In the end, though, I left without one; the colors were all too boring.

JP’s Asian Summer Photos | The Video

If you’re not already sick of my food/transit/goofball friends photos, you can watch this 20 minute video of all my photos together, complete with some catchy tunes.

Who is responsible for that surfer /o/?

I’m sitting in Helen Coffee, in the way back, which is a deep freeze.  It’s actually not that hot out today, only 34°C | 93°F… blue skies, cool breeze; humidity is 49%.

They’re piping in some hateful saxophone covers of “You Are Not Alone,” “Without You,” and “Are you Lonesome Tonight,” complete with full orchestra.  I imagine the musicians after that recording session all went home and wept.  Note to self:  do not forget earphones!

I wish that Minimal Café wasn’t so expensive, and that it wasn’t filled with so many cats.  The Quince goes right there; it would be the perfect place to study, eat next door at Borneo, and hang out behind 師大 Shida.  But alas, expensive.  And cats.

(ambient music:  alto sax cover of Phil Collins “Take Me Home”)

So I took the Dieciocho up to 228 Peace Park and Helen Cafe, where I usually have my lessons.  I thought I’d give Benny’s Nuissance Café a break.

Anyway, as I sat on the Dieciocho, I had a good hard think about the Chinese ESL /o/, which is almost exactly the same as the American Surfer /o/.  Imagine Keannu Reeves saying “Nooooo!” and you’ll come up with a distinct two-syllable “neh-ew.”

Surfer /o/ in Chinese ESL Announcements

So for some reason, ESL speakers whose first language is Chinese use this surfer /o/ when pronouncing English (and Spanish!) words.  I’m not talking about regular Chinese ESL speakers, I’m talking about the ones they like; the ones that Chinese people choose for public address when announcements have to be made in English.  I used to hear it all the time when I lived in Shanghai, I heard it again at the PRC Consulate in San Francisco; and I’ve been hearing it on the buses in Taipei as well.

The classic example is when they are reading numbers; phone numbers, waiting room take-a-numbers, etc.  Chinese people seem to fear the pronunciation of the English word “zero”  which, is silly, since the vowels and most of the consonants are the same as 雞肉 and 肌肉.  In fact, if they just said 細柔 (with a south China accent), most English speakers of the world would perceive that as “zero.”  But the “zero” story is another post.

The point is that Chinese people, when given the chance, will replace the number “zero” with the letter “O.”  Regular people will pronounce this “O” correctly (it’s the same /o/ as in 狗,都,and 后).  Public address announcements, in contrast, for some reason require the surfer /o/.

When you ride a taxi in Shanghai, there’s a hotline that you can call.  I only remember the last 4 digits:  0000.  The taximeter reads it first as 零零零零, and then does the whole announcement again in English, and the last 4 digits sound like “eh-oo, eh-oo, eh-oo, eh-oo.”  Imagine that the mousy Chinese girl chosen to record the announcement learned English from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Who is responsible for this?  Where does it come from?  Is there some kind of national teaching standard set in Beijing that the /o/ sound in public address must sound like Cameron Diaz just smoked a fat doobie?

Because it’s only in public address recordings, and not in regular Chinese ESL pronunciation, I can only conclude that it’s a prescriptivist misapproximation that’s been standardized somehow.  They’re probably going after the British /o/, but someone forgot to tell them that it’s monosyllabic.

BONUS!  The Australian /o/

The Australian /o/ is pure comedy joy to my ears.  If you’re an American and you want to pronounce the word “go” with an Australian accent, first say “oh!” and freeze your lips in that rounded position.  Now, keeping your lips in that rounded position, say the word “gay.”

It will sound and feel weird at first… but then you’ll start to hear it!  You’ve just said “go” with  a crazy Australian “o!”

Practice practice:

  • “No” (round your lips and say “nay”)
  • “Slow”  (round your lips and say “slay”)
  • “Dingo” (round your lips and say “ding-gay”)
  • “Holy smokes!* (round your lips and say “hay-lee smayks”)

*Note:  I have no evidence that Australian people actually say “holy smokes.”  

Airport Self Portrait. July 2007 Shanghai,China

Greetings from Ferengenar.

(Oh!  I see I could have been posting photos from behind the GFW this whole time!  Well, now I know…)

How should I get to the airport? (Readers’ poll)

Today is my last day in Shanghai. I have to do laundry, pick up some stuff that I ordered, one last lesson on Nanjing Road.

I’m behind the GFW so I can’t do a fancy poll, but we can do this the old fasioned way…

How should I get to the airport tomorrow?

  • a. Laowai Express (i.e., taxi cab all the way)
  • b. The Classic (subway or cab to Maglev Bullet Train, laugh as the train whooshes by traffic at a screaming fast 400kph)
  • c. The Xinku Special (take the subway’s new Line 2 extension aaaall the way out. Slow, underground, less than a dollar)

Please leave your votes and your skarky comments in the comments section of this post, or on Facebook where they’ll be read once and then buried with the advance of time.


Some memorable scenes from this week:

  • Going into the Praxis office; the cleaning lady recognizes me. Do you remember me? she asks. Of course I do, I say, and then I remembered that I could never understand her. Good to see her though.
  • At a restaurant I’m used topping off other people’s tea cups before filling my own. Davidico put his foot down when he saw me pouring out a glass of beer for him. "That’s too 客气" pretentiously formal, he says. I gave a bottle you have a bottle, we can pour our own beer.
  • Aussie Matt wondered to me if G had come out of the closet yet. I was a little astounded, I wondered if he was outing him to me. Matt explained, oh, he was always so homophobic, I always teased him that it must be how he deals with his own homosexual tendencies. It was an absolutely hilarious thing to say, but I was so stunned I didn’t laugh, so I said, that was an absolutely hilarious thing you just said now.
  • I met Jamie at a Hunnan restaurant on Wulumuqi Road; I had eaten there a couple of times before when I lived here. During the meal, in the middle of our conversation, I was distracted the older lady who worked there… she walked out of the bathroom with a wet face, bent over and gently blotted her face dry with the loose corner of a tablecloth that was on a banquet table in the dining room. the next set of customers sitting at that table won’t know their table cloth is her face towel. Later that night another employee came out of the restroom with her long hair totally drenched. She came out and stood in front of the A/C and brushed her hair, toweled off a little, as Jamie and I on the other side of the room ate our garlic shoots with bacon.
  • Walking through an Austrian restaurant and accidentally kicking the leg of a toddler’s high chair. I apologized profusely in English and everyone at the table, giant blonde people, including the baby, just looked at me with contempt.
  • The happy girl from the Simply Life Bakery recognized me on the street. She was off duty and out of uniform, but still super cheerful. It was her that taught me how to say 法棍 and 馆子。

Shanghai: The Lost Day

Aaaand we’re back! It was my mama who noticed first, and then Jinqiao M of the Sunday Dinner Club; my blog has been suspended due to a violation of the terms of service. Not sure which rule I broke.

This happened to one other person I know, a friend of mine who was blogging from Chengdu. He says they thought he was a bot; he said, I’m not a bot, and they reinstated his blog.

I’m behind the GFW with no VPN, which means I can’t access the wordpress site. I chatted someone back in Seattle and asked them fill out the form on the wordpress sight on my behalf (thanks B).


As I was going through the day today, I started to feel what it might be like to just live my life and not journal. But then I realized I’d forget all the amazing things I saw. I blog, because I am a forgettor.

I was feeling a bit sniffly so it was another "day off" for me. I slept in as usual, and then got cleaned up and wandered out to the subway. The goal of the day was to finish my gift shopping.

I hope the adults in my life know that I’m not getting them gifts. I only get trinkets and stuff for my little nieces and nephews, who might decide to hate me if I don’t. So I get them tiny things. The adults though, I don’t mind if they hate me. I don’t have a lot of money to throw around.

So to get these gifts, I decided to go aaaalll the way across town; this will allow me to bypass the aggressive middlemen who stand sadly outside markets and bet to take me to see things I can frakking find on my own. Seriously. So I skipped the big market right here at Keqiguan, I skipped the Nanjing Fake, and I went all the way out to Hongqiao Pearl City; the original fake market. Old school.

On the way down, I thought it might be a good idea to hop on the 9 train and get out on my old street: 马当路 Madang Road. I figured I would surface right across the street from the gates of my old neighborhood, but you know what? I was wrong. When I came up, it was 马当路 Madang Road, 徐家汇路 Xujiahui Road, which is a good two blocks from where I lived.

So I walked the two blocks and saw what was there and what was gone, what I remembered and what I had forgotten. It was muggy, and stinky; less stinky than I remembered. I past the tiny hole in the wall vegetable stand, where a family of three generations lived; I used to buy eggs from them, and green onions. I passed the entrance to my apartment complex; the guards were too busy hanging out to recognize me.

And then I realized, that subway station they had been building across the street all that time, it was never Line 9 Madang Road, it was Line 10 Xintiandi Station. Holy smokes, that would have made my life convenient.

So anyway, I got on Line 10 and rode it out to Hongqiao, walked the block to the Hongmei Lu restaurants, and got myself a wienerschnitzel, which came with potato salad and a green salad. Then I walked over to Pearl City and bought a bunch of silly gifts for my nieces and nephew. And then I came home.

There was a long chat with Aussie L over skype and then off to dinner; I had chicken in green curry.

Tomorrow is my last real day in Shanghai, and I’ll be picking up things I ordered last week. It’s supposed to be rainy stormy some more.

There’s no vocab today. It was a lost day.

No Day Off from Vocab

Whoops, forgot to include vocab on that last post. Can’t go back and edit, because… social harmony. So I’ll list them here.

To you these lists may seem dry and random, but I’m glad I’ve been posting them; they remind me of the great conversations I’ve been having.

  1. 大肚子 dàdǔzi: pregnant
  2. 重身子 zhòngshēnzi: pregnant
  3. 懷孕 huáiyùn: become pregnant; have conceived
  4. 丟面子 diū miànzi: to lose face
  5. 賣面子 màimiànzi: to curry favor for a third party, to earn points for someone else
  6. 買面子 mǎimiànzi: to defer to someone, to allow someone to save face
  7. 愛面子 ài miànzi: be sensitive about one’s reputation
  8. 失面子 shīmiànzi: to lose face
  9. 礙面子 àimiànzǐ: (not do sth) for fear of offending sb
  10. 駁面子 bómiànzi: to contradict sb to his face / insensitive to other’s feelings
  11. 爭面子 zhēngmiànzǐ: to fight for a good reputation
  12. 着急 zháojí: to worry; feel anxious
  13. 神奇 shénqí: miraculous; magical; mystical
  14. 出差 chū chāi: go on a business trip
  15. 特意 tèyì: specially for; with the special intention of
  16. 碰到 pèngdào: run into; meet
  17. 感覺 gǎnjué: to feel; become aware of; feeling
  18. 前幾天 qiánjǐtiān: last few days; several days ago
  19. mēn, mèn: stuffy; cover tightly; keep silent bored; melancholy; sealed
  20. 享受 xiǎngshòu: enjoy
  21. 過程 guòchéng: course of events; process
  22. 食堂 shítáng: dining hall; cafeteria
  23. 希望 xīwàng: to hope; wish for; to desire
  24. 習慣 xíguàn: habit; be accustomed to; usual practice

A Day Off from Shanghai

I’m taking a personal day from Shanghai today. I haven’t left my luxury house-sit except to go buy a chicken pot pie from the bakery on the corner. I need a little break, maybe from seeing people, but also from heat rash, and from the allergy response a couple of mosquito bites have given me.

Yesterday Lunch

Yesterday was a big day. I met Davidico for lunch again, but before we went out to eat, he helped me taobao some water brushes, which old people use to write characters on the side walk. It was a fascinating process.

Taobao is the Chinese version of Amazon; Amazon with Chinese characteristics. There were a bunch of different options, and it took us a while to pick one out with the right head, that was made of the right material, that was the right length.

Then Davidico opened a chat window to the merchant. When I was surprised that he could do that, he said, don’t you chat with merchants in the US? Sure, I said, by email, he’d get back to us the next day…

Anyway, Davidico started getting down to brass tacks in the chat box. What material is this? Are the heads replaceable? How long does delivery take?

Once we had all the details about the sale, we got very deliberate about deciding how many we wanted and how much we wanted to pay, significantly less than the price listed on the screen. When that was all figured out, he chatted the merchant: Three brushes, three replacement heads, 100块 OK?

I have heard “OK?” a lot in China, but I always assumed they were code switching for my sake. Now I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t a special Chinese grammatical particle, that means “just take the price.” Now I’m going to listen to see if “OK” occurs in Chinese when a price isn’t involved. I suspect it doesn’t. It’s definitely not as wide in scope as an American “ok.”

The merchant agreed to the price, not with an “OK,” but with a 好的 (which is how you say “ok” in Chinese). Then Davidico turned to me and said, what extra gift do you want? Because once you’ve agreed on a price, you ask them to throw in a gift. Seriously. I think he could see that I had no idea, so he suggested another pen, a small one.

Will you throw in a pen? chats Davidico, and the merchant comes back, “a real pen, or a mini brush?” I was all, mini brush! and I was thinking, what next? and thank God I don’t have to do business in this country myself.

So after the “oral” agreement (that happened over chat), Davidico then used the website to enter the item number and quantity of the things we wanted. “The merchant will change the price to what we agreed on,” he says, and then a minute later, the screen changed to show our price. Davidico placed the order.

I’m pretty sure if that negotiation had taken place face to face, it would have aggravated me. Just imagining it aggravates me. But sitting in the office with a fan, next to my friend who was giving me a cultural explanation at each step, I found it fascinating. I wonder if I should have taken video.

Yesterday Afternoon

After lunch with Davidico, I went to meet Aussie Matt in his penthouse apartment on the 34th floor. We talked about whiskey, marriage, language learning… It was good to see him again, Matt is a good man.

You know, there’s a way that most people think they have to learn Chinese, by hitting it hard, buy doing a lot of programs and contests, and throwing your life at it. Out of everyone I knew in China, I had a mental image of Aussie Matt being the one dude that actually succeeded at doing it that conventional way. I also saw him as the World Champion of learning Chinese, the dude why by sheer will forced his way into full-fledged double-dominant bilinguilism.

No way, he says; everything I know is from exposure and communication. If I have a talent, he says, it’s sounding good, I sound good when I speak Chinese, but it’s what I picked up, not what I studied. I still have a hard time expressing myself; I still lack vocabulary sometimes, I still

I wanted take a moment to be astonished, but Matt being Matt rolls right on. Pasden, he says, he really knows his stuff, his Chinese is better than mine. Your Spanish is better than my Chinese, he says.

I took away a couple of things from that bit of conversation. The first thing is that everyone, everyone, everyone learns language by exposure, practice, and real communication. Everyone. When they tell you they speak well because they studied hard, because they memorized, because they took classes, because they bought a product… all of that stuff is at best, a tiny shortcut, at worst a total distraction. If it’s not exposure, practice, and real communication, it’s not language learning.

The second thing that I took away from this conversation is that we second language learners, we might never feel fluent. Aussie Matt’s Chinese is orders of magnitude better than my Spanish, let’s set that straight, so if he doesn’t feel double-dominant bilingual then what hope to the rest of us poor suckers have?

My parents immigrated to the US 40 years ago, and as a linguist I would diagnose both of them as dominant in American English, but I think they’d self-report feeling a little language lost sometimes.

So if you can bust your ass all your life to speak a second language and never feel fluent, then I guess you just have to let go of your desire to feel fluent.

Back to Aussie Matt. As expats we all take a dive into Chinese culture, and Aussie Matt has taken an extremely deep dive. I’m going to make an effort to check in on him more; to hear what he’s finding at those depths, to make sure he’s not getting crushed by the pressure, to remind him to come up for air once in a while. What an amazing character; the story of his life could be the great American novel. The story of my life, by contrast, might be an E! True Hollywood Story.

Last Night

After my visit with Matt I got in a cab and just talked my face off with the cabbie. She was a woman driver, and I remarked that I’ve been getting a lot of woman drivers lately, whereas three years ago, not so much. She told me yes, there are more women cabbies, more women have to work to make ends meet nowadays. It was a pretty awesome conversation, and because of the rain there was traffic, so it was a good 20 minute ride that might have taken less than 10 minutes if it hadn’t been raining.

At my lesson I talked my face off as well. My teacher couldn’t get a word in edgewise, I don’t think she had time to write down any vocabulary, I was talking so much. Maybe Matt’s jawing rubbed off on me. Maybe it was the whiskey.

When class was over, I went outside and got rained on. And I started sniffling because of the mosquito bites. So I subwayed back to Jinqiao and let the crazy rain and lightning storm dissuade me from going out to Liliana’s party, which would have been a 30 minute cab ride. I felt miserable flaking on such a one-of-a-kind event, but then lightning struck across the street with that searing sound of exploding air.

So I stayed home and ate a banana.


Laundry. Skritter. Some IMing. That’s about it. For dinner I might take a cab to Wagas, have a tuna salad, read a copy of That’s Shanghai.

It’s nice to have time to think.

I had a long think about the verb “need.” The other day I was talking about not wanting to see a certain person, and my friend said “You need to get over that.”

I thought, “need?” Need? That’s not a need at all. Seeing that person is not anywhere on Maslow’s pyramid of needs.

People say “you need” to do something, and it sounds so forceful, but it’s false. I don’t “need” to do that, you want me to do that. There is a huge difference between what I need, and what you want.

UPDATE:  I am deleting the story that I had posted here earlier because it was a stupid story from years ago that is no longer on my heart.

Gotta Get Down On Friday

Plans today:

  • lunch with Davidico, figure out sidewalk pen situation.
  • hang out with Aussie Matt… dang! forgot to bring a copy of his book to autograph!
  • quick drink at Liliana’s party

In my lesson yesterday, I tried to ask about a pretty big scandal involving American diplomacy recently. My teacher didn’t know what I was talking about, so I told her that today I’d give her the skinny. I had to look up a bunch of words, but was hesitant to list therm here, which is a shame. I should probably be safe, though, if I remove the Chinese words. And the English words.

Aussie L is stuck at the airport in Seoul with some kind of 20 hour layover. Brutal. Here’s a shout-out…

  1. chǒushì: el escándalo (el asunto)
  2. chǒuwén: el escándalo(el fenómeno en las noticias)
  3. mángrén: el ciego
  4. lǜshī: el abogado
  5. duòtāi: el aborto
  6. zǐgōng: el útero
  7. qiēchú: la extracción quirúgico
  8. yōujìn: el arresto domiciliario
  9. wàiqiáng: el muro
  10. dàshǐguǎn: la embajada
  11. bìnàn: aislo, solicitar asilo
  12. bìhù: aisilo, dar/ofrecer aisilo
  13. liúwáng: desterrar, estar en exilio

My pre-Line 10 Life

I spent most of the day chilling at the house-sit-house. At lunch time I met Vera at a Japanese restaurant; she was just awesome. She has just gotten back to Shanghai after a three year stint as a Mandarin teacher at a rural high school in Indiana, plus what sounds like a whirlwind tour of big US cities. I asked in Chinese if we were going to speak English, but she wasn’t having it. We also spent a fair amount of time arguing over who was treating whom to lunch. She said that when she goes to Seattle to visit, then I have to treat her. These 请-ing arguments require underhanded tactics in the mainland.

The place we went was at this fancy new shopping complex on Jinqiao Road called the 金桥国际商业广场 Jinqiao International Business Plaza. It’s not far from Old School Jinqiao, where my friends live, and it’s got all kinds of crazy awesome places: the sushi restaurant, for one, but also Burger King, Haagen-Dazs, Wagas, Chamate, BiFenTang, Ajisen Ramen, and oh yes, the golden arches. Plus… a line 6 subway station! I’m going to go there tomorrow morning to hang out at the coffee bean before going to meet Davidico for lunch.

After lunch went back to the apartment for more chilling out, but then later I took the subway to my conversation class at Lavazza. My teacher beat me there so there was no time for an early dinner. The class was, again, awesome, my teacher is hella cool.

After class there was a table of westerners sitting on the patio. I didn’t understand what they were saying, all I could hear were some crazy nonsense tones. Later I realized they were speaking Spanish.

I walked out onto the street and I thought about going all the way back to Jinqiao, but decided on going to Changle Road to try to find my favorite Japanese restaurant, Bankura Soba Kitchen… which I ended up finding with the help of a great woman cab driver. The women cab drivers are just more pleasant to get along with sometimes.

I had karaake, dashimaki tamago, some cold soba, and an Asahi. I was slightly shocked when the bill came out to 101块RMB, but then I remembered… that’s not even $16 bones USD, which is pretty good for some 挑剔 über-fussy Japanese food and a beer.

After that, I thought I’d go visit the old neighborhood. I had the cabbie, another woman, who was delighted to speak with me, she dropped me off at 新天地 Xintiandi. The other laowais were going into the shopping complex, I walked past it, down to where I used to live and work. I walked down South Huangpi, across Fuxing to Hefei Road. I passed where Zentral used to be, the old BSR ("bad service restaurant"), the street kitchen we called "Toxic Smell." I was most hoping to see my old barbershop, the Shandong dumpling place, the small wonton place, and the super cheap xiaolong bao place, but I didn’t see them. Stinky, gross old Hefei Road isn’t as noisy or crowded anymore, although I did hear some people yelling at a truck driver unloading sandbags that he was raising way too much dust.

I walked all the way to the end, to the old Line 8 Laoximen subway station, and saw the Graceland Hotel where I stayed when I came to Shanghai in 2007 to interview with Praxis. Anyway, when I got down into the station, I saw that it was a transfer station; they’ve opened Line 10. I took a look at Line 10 and was kind of amazed…. when I was here, I was living a Line 10 kind of life… before Line 10 even existed. Here are the awesome stops on Line 10:

  • Longxi Road Station: 10 minute walk to Hongqiao Pearl City (Fake market)
  • Shanghai Library Station: 7 minute walk to the JZ Club
  • South Shaanxi Road Station: City Market
  • Xintiandi Station: My house; the old factory office
  • Laoximen Station: The old city, the Dongtai Road Antique market
  • Yuyuan Garden Station: tourist shopping, Dintaifeng
  • East Nanjing Road Station: Duh, East Nanjing Road, transfer to Line 2 for Sunday night dinner in Pudong

Amazing. I wish that had been there when I lived there.

挑剔 tiāoti: picky; fastidious (me, in terms of coffee; Japanese people, in terms of Japanese food, thank goodness)

故意 gùyì: deliberately; intentional; on purpose

其中 qízhōng: among; in; included among these

xiàngmù: item; project

政治 zhèngzhì: politics

y luàn: disorder; confusion; arbitrarily

qióng: poor; exhausted

吵架 chǎo jià: to quarrel; to squabble; bicker