August 26th, 2010 | Published in Uncategorized
The other day I was trying to buy some sneakers, and I realized, after hearing the phrase for maybe the 100th time, that I may have learned the most frustrating words in Chinese.
I was trying to buy some sneakers in the Puma shop in my town, and they informed me, as has every other store in my town, that they don’t have my size.
So I asked them if they could order a bigger size. And they said no, sorry. And I thought about this for a while, standing in the Puma shop, which is a Western brand, surrounded by shoes that you could find in any mall in the U.S., and I asked the obvious question: “Why?”
The Chinese word for “Why?” is Weishenme? And here’s an example of how magically simple and dramatically different Chinese is from English. If you want to tell someone that there is no explanation for the thing they are confused about, if you want to tell them that there is no reason that they can’t do something that they want to do, if you want to drive a stake of pure frustration through their feebly beating heart, all you have to do is add “don’t have” before “why”, and watch their even-keeled demeanor crumble before your eyes.
The phrase for “there is no why” is “meiyou weishenme” (don’t have why). I feel like I hear this phrase every other day here. From friends, shopkeepers, coworkers, supervisors, everybody and his brother. And every time I hear it a little piece of me sqirms and squeals and perishes like an earthworm thrown onto an iron woodstove. And I’m pretty sure it’s the most frustrating phrase in Chinese. Obviously, I’m a newbie to Chinese so there are a million phrases I don’t know, but one of my base assumptions here is that the most frustrating things are often the simplest.
So needless to say I am now wearing sneakers with soles that are falling off, that smell as though they were shit inside by some kind of loathsome golem from whatever part of the underworld is responsible for farts, rotten meat and stinky tofu.
In other news, I just got back from Guangzhou the other day. I spent five days there with my friend, Natasha, who visited me in Sanming back towards the end of winter. Guangzhou has a surplus of foreigners, so it was actually super interesting to hang out with native speakers for a while and get their perspectives on China. And refreshing, in a way, to be able to commisserate with other foreigners about all the ridiculous cultural stuff that drives me crazy here. Sometimes it really feels like I’m in a vacuum here, which is probably good for my Chinese but frequently makes me feel isolated and paranoid and uncomfortable.
The downside of the trip is that Guangzhou is basically the asshole of the world, city-wise. I would never recommend going there unless it’s specifically to visit someone who’s worth going there for (which was true in my case). I used my Lonely Planet Travel Guide to explore the city for a few days, and was totally disappointed. The Lonely Planet guide actually makes out the King’s Tomb in GZ to be one of the “best museums in China”, but it was actually a wretchedly boring, unimpressive, display of old jade remains of a tomb that was discovered in GZ a couple decades ago.
I also got hassled by the cops in GZ. I was having a beer with Natasha in a quiet western style bar and three cops came in, walked directly to our table, and asked to see our passports. I didn’t have mine on me, so they took me to the police station while Natasha went back to her apartment to get it for me. I was a little drunk and said some things to the cops that I shouldn’t have, which probably didn’t help any. In the end they just fined me 50 RMB. But it pissed me off because it completely ruined our night and also it’s not like they asked any of the Chinese in the bar for ID. It was obviously just a scheme on the part of the cops — picking on foreigners to make a little extra cash for the department. And what they hell is a foreigner going to do except pay the fine?
So after waiting a couple extra days because of a dearth of bus tickets back to town, I arrived back in Sanming three days ago. And immediately fell ill to a case of the bad-water stomach. And classes begin next week. But I barely have any. And I have a bunch of private students now so I’ll be able to afford life.
And I discovered some cool music mixes at this site: http://radiomagnetic.com/category/shows/radiovava/