Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The China Diaries: Happy Birthday

Today, I turned 23.

The celebrations started last night, when I went out to a club with most of my fellow teachers. On my part, there was very little drinking, and quite a lot of dancing. Anyone who's seen me at a wedding reception has a fairly accurate idea of what happened.

The morning was fairly mundane; I woke up around 9:30, listened to Radiolab, and did some laundry. I knew most of my peers wouldn't be awake until after 12, so I waited until about 12:30 to start sending out texts seeing if anyone wanted to go to the market. I received one reply saying, "I'm sorry, but I am not leaving my flat today," which made me laugh.

Being alone is not something I was in the mood for today, and it started to annoy me. For one thing, as I walked off in the vague direction of my destination, it occurred to me that I am still rather helpless when it comes to getting the food I want; unless I know from experience that a given restaurant has the dish I want, I don't know what they prepare, and I am frightened to ask. This evening, I stopped in a restaurant to see if they had Chow Bing; the man looked at me blankly and handed me a menu. The look I returned wasn't so blank; "If I could read your menu, would we even be having this interaction?"

I'd decided my birthday present to myself would be a guitar; I found a lovely Roxe (*shrug*) acoustic for 740 RMB. I was feeling pretty good today, apparently; I never barter, as my Chinese isn't strong enough for me to be comfortable with the idea, but I got the guitar down to 650 RMB (about $110) with a bag and a capo thrown in for good measure. I also ended up buying all five seasons of Six Feet Under (At $2.75 a season, you say no), A Dog Day Afternoon, and Beauty and the Beast. It's going to be the best marathon ever.

When I got the guitar back to my apartment, I realized how much I've missed having one around. I sat on the couch for almost two hours, playing through bits of everything. I felt a bit like Sweeney Todd, really; At last, my arm is complete again.

The early evening was spent finishing The Amber Spyglass (amazing; I'm not ashamed to say there were a few tears), and then I headed off to my first Chinese lesson. It's a funny thing about logographic languages; I know how to say the name of the bus stop I wanted to get to this evening (tai bai xiao qu), but I didn't know how it was written (太白小区). This made finding the bus and direction on the signs for the routes a very tricky thing. Fortunately, the bus driver understood my predicament, and signaled when it was my stop. There was a moment of misunderstanding; apparently, in China, waving your hand means "No, stop, don't," not the more personally familiar "bye bye." I'll leave how that came about to your capable imaginations.

The lesson itself was a lot of fun. The teacher and I ended up in a conversation about Japanese grammar, followed by my admitting to having spent a break at work the other day reading the Wiki on copulas, and she pronounced me to be "cool." That is the only time that has ever happened, and likely the only time it ever will. The electricity in her building went out about 2/3 through the lesson, which made the reading portions a bit trickier, but then I got to learn Chinese by candlelight. It added a certain something to the proceedings. Certainly made it memorable. I took a cab home, and had an hour-long Skype chat with my mom. It was, over all, and despite not having quite been to plan, a very nice birthday.

The guitar is wonderful, and I'm genuinely excited about Six Feet Under, but I think the best thing I did on my birthday was catching a scooter taxi home from the market. With a guitar slung on my back, I hopped on the back of a scooter/bike and rode home. I've taken them twice since I've been in Xi'an (they are a bit more expensive than cabs); There is a feeling that you will die if you are hit by something, and there's an equally large feeling that you will be hit by something, but the whole thing is relaxing: You sit on the back of a bike, with a gorgeous breeze coming by, taking in the sounds of the city, and the gentle undulations of the shocks. Totally worth 14 RMB (haggled down from 15, as I was feeling invincible.) ((Okay, fine, it was because I meant to say 12 RMB, but misspoke.)) (((And I'm still really hungry, because the place that sells dumplings down the corner was closed by the time I got home)))


Anonymous said...

My favourite part of this blog is reading the comment you thought to yourself about the Chinese menu takes me back to the fabulous comments you made me laugh with in DIsney!
P.s happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

man this is just like a breeze of fresh air, hahaha i dont know why but i found it so entretainable and funny, u can consider me a follower of this great blog, i wish i'd wrote all the incredible experiences that i lived when i was back in Disney. for now, a big birthday hug my friend wishing you the best of luck, hope everything goes just great!
P.S. i cant beleive you misspronounce 12 with 15! hahaha
Josh Morera

Jennifer said...

Happy Birthday!