(originally posted here)
Let me teach you a little saying: “This is China.” Repeat after me: “T.I.C.” McDonalds has pineapple and bean pies, but no apple? “T.I.C.” Every shopping card in the store glides to the left? “T.I.C.” The wholesome-looking loaf of bread you bought is actually sweet? Say it with me: “T.I.C.”
That explains why every other Microsoft site is working (including this one), but Hotmail refuses to load. So, for those of you who I e-mailed to say that I was sick last week: I’m feeling much better, thanks for asking, and I’m sorry I haven’t replied to your e-mails for the last three days. According to a friend down the street – with whom I’m chatting on, yes, MSN Messenger – it works fine at his house. He has the same internet company as I do, but for some reason we have a different ADSL service, which apparently this week means that I don’t get to access my mail. Messenger will tell me I HAVE mail, but the page won’t actually load. *sigh* This Is China.
Actually, I could probably use the reminder that this is, indeed, China. I’ve been having a very insular week. As I mentioned above, I got sick near the end of last week (a very bad cold, and a fever for a day or two), so this holiday week so far has consisted of my sitting around and sleeping, convalescing. I’ve only ventured out to sit around and sleep at foreign friends’ apartments, and once or twice to the grocery store. This evening was the first time I’ve spent any time with native speakers of Chinese in 6 days – and the day before that was just my two student assistants who came for a movie right as I started to get really sick last Friday morning. Even tonight’s excursion was the most American experience I’ve had in quite a while. Let me tell you a little about it.
My friend Sandy and her family speak very good English, and lived in Canada for a time. Tonight she called me around 8:45 to invite me for a ride in their new minivan. Cars are expensive and not so common here, so aside from taxis I don’t get out in them much. But this sounded like fun, and I figured I was strong enough by now and could use the fresh air – it had been a day of laundry and old Broadway musicals on DVD. So her husband Kerry picked me up, and I joined them at a new plaza a few city blocks away. There’s a lovely fountain of the sort you see people run through in movies, and I’ve always wanted to try that, so I got Cathay and Timmy, their kids, to join me and we got a little wet. When it was turned off for the night, we drove Sandy’s nephew and his girlfriend to the train station – it was much quieter at 9:30pm than it usually is, but still busy. Then the five of us went to an all-night restaurant for a little late-night snack. It was Chinese food, alright (good, too!), but we sat in wicker swings hanging from the ceiling and covered in plastic flowers! Overall, it had the feel of a Denny’s or similar restaurant in the States. The soy sauce was even in one of those syrup bottles where you push the button and the spout slides open! Kerry had never seen one before, and I can’t imagine where they got them. Still, it seems as useful for soy sauce as for syrup, and at least it won’t get gunked up and stick shut nearly as fast!
If anyone out there knows how to transfer pictures from a phone to a computer, I’d love to know. We had fun taking pictures of each other while we waited for our food. But until that happens – or until I buy a regular camera – you’ll have to be content with my description. I could never mistake the evening for actually being in America, but it was like an American experience lifted and plopped down in my new hometown. Call it “Chinese Grafitti.” Cue Harrison Ford (Chow Yun Fat, anyone?). Start the music.
…wheels roll… and I glide off down the street… ‘Nite!