Blogging Like I've Never Blogged Before

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Oh, hello. I am still in China. Since a few people asked, and it's only polite to explain what I am doing here, I am in Beijing for work. I will be here for three weeks. So since I am here for work, there are days (such as today) where I couldn't wait to get home. I'm exhausted and work was pretty busy. So if I seem like I'm not living my Beijing vacation to the fullest, it's because I am working a lot.

So anyway, I went to Tiananmen Square today before work. Walking up out of the subway and seeing the portrait of Chairman Mao was pretty incredible. It was really my first "holy shit I'm in China" moment. Then as I was walking around, about twelve people came up to me asking if I wanted them to be my tour guide. Those were twelve "ah shit I'm a white guy at a tourist attraction in China" moments.

I went to lunch by myself afterwards. I've learned that it is difficult for people to communicate if they don't speak the same language. For example, I speak English and about two words of Chinese. My waitress spoke Chinese and about two words of English. We played charades.

In this guide book I bought, it explains how certain seemingly innocuous things can mean something very insulting in Chinese. For example, it says, "Never stick your chopsticks vertically into your rice as they will resemble incense sticks in a bowl of ashes and will be considered an omen of death." Of course! Everyone knows that one, right?

So I am trying to tell my waitress I want a bottled water. I say water, thinking maybe it's the equivalent of how everyone knows what "agua" means. No dice. She looks at me and says something all Chinese, and I again say, "bottled water." But this time I say it LOUDER, so she can get it. She doesn't get it. So now I try to mimic what drinking a bottled water looks like, which as I am doing it realizes it could be easily misconstrued as, well, pretend you're drinking a bottled water. Yeah, so she looks at me kind of weird and I'm thinking, Did I just give the Chinese symbol for "I think you'd do very well for me in illegal sex trafficking"?

Anyway, I eventually asked for a Coke, because what is more universal than a Coke? But then of course I was worried that maybe coke is universal for cocaine, so not only did I just proposition this girl, I asked her if she had any cocaine.

But I got a Coca-Cola and everyone was happy.

Note to self: Learn Chinese.

Anyway, here is a photo from today. Like I said, my Chinese is terrible, but I am pretty sure this says "Welcome to Tiananmen Square, Presented By Pepsi".

"Okay, Dave, welcome aboard. I know today is your first day, but you have a very important job. You need to stand out front and be ready to extinguish anyone who sets themself on fire, and Dave, they WILL set themselves on fire. We've all seen it. You ready? You know how to work one of these things? Don't forget to stand straight with your hands at your sides."

All material © Mike Toole; 2003 - 2006