Chinese Charades

August 30th, 2011
Location: Wagas, North Shaanxi
Time: 7:24 pm

I had an entire conversation yesterday that did not require a single word.

When people ask me how I like Shanghai I usually reply that I enjoy it, but would probably like it a whole lot more if I spoke the language – the language being, of course, Mandarin. Not to be confused with Shanghainese because that’s a whole other snarl of trouble, and grating on the nerves to boot.  But while I don’t speak that particular language I have honed the fine skill of an even more useful manner of discourse – body language.

That’s right Ursula, I have not underestimated its power in the least. 

Need some ground beef?  Here’s what you do:  You point to the slab of beef.  You point to the ground pork.  You create claws with your hands and make circular motions while growling in the back of your throat.  Butcher man points to the grinder and replicates your noise and body language.  Good to go. Half-pound of ground beef into the basket and you’re off.

I’ve actually been working on this skill for years.  I remember sitting in front of the full-length mirror in the hallway of my childhood home making various faces.  I have one distinct memory of tucking my hair up into a blue beret and enacting plays with different voices and facial expressions for each character.  I tucked my hair up because those characters I was doing?  Yeah, all dudes.

Nope, not an only child.  Just weird.

But that’s what you gotta do in this city. Not the pretend you’re a guy part, but be willing to make a fool or yourself and be prepared to be laughed at. A lot.  Because they will laugh at you.  Often. But guess what?  I got my ground beef, suckas. No pork burgers for me.  That crap only be good if sweet and sour precedes it.

But you want to know what body language and funny throat noises get you when you try to ask for another month of internet? 

Blank stares.

I guess I should consider signing up for Chinese Pod. Or something.  Whatever. 

Riding the Bus

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