The past 7 months have been tumultuous. I’ve seen things I never thought I would see. I’ve grown accustomed to antics I previously thought alien. I’ve shed tears all over this country. It’s been tough, I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, kicking, shouting and screaming as I go. However, I’ve battled on and I can safely say I now have balls of steel; balls larger than those of an OX. They are mighty and they are strong. Thank you China for giving me my oversized and weighty bollocks.
A few months ago I assembled a handy survival guide for a twit abroad. I can now speak from a (slightly) more informed perspective and shed some light on how I have attempted to get to grips with my bizarre existence. To prevent your eyes glazing over while I waffle on, and because I am being a pretentious twat, I have decided to release this as a ‘mini-series’. Each blog will be about a different aspect of my struggles to adapt to life in China. Please keep in mind that I live in a small Chinese city, the norms here are very different from those in larger cities. Life here is strange even by Chinese standards and as a city it is about 15-20 years behind places such as Shanghai, Hangzhou or Shenzhen (various places I have visited and can therefore contrast). The things that have occurred here may happen everywhere or they may be peculiar to JiuJiang, but believe me when I tell you that this shit is real.
- Learning the language!
Here are a few examples of when the language barrier fucks you!
Whoever said you don’t need to speak Chinese before moving to China is a brainless half-wit (British council I’m looking right at you, you dingbats! Good one). I blame myself for being so naive. I moved to a city where barely anyone speaks English. If anyone speaks English to me it is a rarity. In fact, it is such an oddity here that I am taken aback and squeal with delight when I hear English. Alas more often than not these conversations reach a screeching halt after ‘how are you?’ Even the English teachers at my school prefer to talk about my in Chinese rather than talk to me in the tongue of their chosen profession. Anyway, the point still remains that I am the dumbass who moved to a small Chinese city with no understanding of the Chinese language.
For the first few months I relied mainly on pointing, smiling, crying, and terrible miming. The phrase ‘Zhe ge’ meaning ‘this one’ fast became the most useful phrase. In fact it still is the most used phrase in my Chinese Vocabulary. Do not under estimate the power of pointing and saying ‘this one’. Pure gold. So to make my life easier and to stop being an ignorant foreigner I commenced my education. I found an amazing teacher and started the Wednesday night Chinese lessons with Sarah and Kayla.
Progress has been made. Over the last few months our ability to communicate has strengthened. Ordering food is less of an ordeal. A lot of guess work still ensues but the nub and gist of the practice has definitely been conquered! In September we were in a restaurant and instead of using words to communicate we had to resort to mimes. The restaurant owner was having a whale of a time acting out fish, cows and frogs, hopping about all over the show. In October I was able to order dumplings but accidentally received 2 huge boxes as I had muddled up my numbers. Now, I order all my meals without having to mime any animals. However, I do still guess and hope for the best. It’s still a challenge and dishes we order are often a surprise. Yet, I am happy to report it is getting easier and easier.
I can now tell taxi drivers where I want to go and give directions. I can even ask for directions, the problem is understanding the answer. I can have very basic conversation and spout out random sentences. Most importantly I can tell you, in Chinese, that ‘my cat is very cute’**** (Wo de mao hen ke ai) and that ‘winter is coming’ (dongtian lai le).
****correction: this sentence is no longer useful because the bastards took my cat away, I cannot go into details here as my poor broken heart cannot handle the emotions this topic will unleash.
So I have been trying hard and even though it sometimes goes tits up I think I am improving. Next month I am taking the HSK level 2 examination (these are a series of 6 Chinese language tests) and hopefully I will smash it. Admittedly I still make a lot of mistakes. But does it really matter if I occasionally accidentally invite a lift full of men back to home instead of telling them I am going home now (don’t worry they didn’t follow me home)? Is it a massive problem if I accidentally tell I teacher I like eating oranges and then receive in the mail an entire crate of oranges? Even if I can’t understand the answer at least I can ask the question, right? It definitely isn’t a sign of defeat that I still have to say ‘ting bu dong’ – I don’t understand – every time I speak to someone Chinese. Nahhh its cool I am definitely in a better position than I was 7-8 months ago.
In conclusion, stage one of growing bollocks requires learning the language. This will be hard. The end.
p.s. Remember guys, absolutely no tossing!!!!!!