I can’t laugh at Chenglish because I know my Chinese sounds just as ridiculous. I can say a few key phrases such as “thank you” and “how do you flush this thing”? but that’s about it. The rest is Greek to me.
For starters, the language spoken in Kunming isn’t Mandarin or Cantonese, but an ethnic dialect all its own, a Chinese Creole so to speak. It uses loads of fringe letters of the English alphabet, the ones that help you rack up the points in Scrabble, such as X, Z, Q and J.
But Chinese pronunciation is a whole different game.
Q isn’t the way we pronounce Q, but more like if you put “Ch”, “T” and “R” in a blender on the “phonetic puree” setting.
Plus, there’s the whole tonal thing in the Chinese language. Giving a simple word the wrong tone can be disastrous. For instance, the number “4″ when mispronounced can easily turn into death. This is why cell phone numbers that contain a lot of “4s” are less expensive than those containing easy to pronounce and lucky numbers such as “8″ (pronounced “bah”, yeah, like a sheep.
Yes, I admit, my midwestern mouth trips over sounds such as Woos (Woo is me, literally!) and Wuus (Street): Zo Gwuys (turn left) , Yo Gwuys (hang a right), and other impossible tongue twisters, “ Duō luó xi, wǒmen zài yě huí bù qù kānsàsī le” (Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore). Yet, I know enough survival Chinese to buy something at the market.
Jeff, on the other hand, got a T-shirt printed up that says “Ting Bu Don” meaning: I don’t understand Chinese.
This Chenglish sign is at Carrefour, the Chinese version of the Kroger Supermarket. It makes “this oldie ever smile big”. The Carrefour website is a cyber field of Chenglish land mines. http://e-shop.carrefour.com.cn//product.do?action=listpro&catalogid=84
Conversations with No One.
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Friday night I went to one of the countless bootleg DVD stores in China. Along with getting the entire seven years of The Golden Girls, I picked a movie called Conversations with God.
I thought it would be like Eat Love and Pray minus Julia Roberts.
Instead, it was one of the worse movies I ever sat through, even on a “I’m in China and desperate to watch anything in English” standards.
The move starred Henry Czerny the voice behind the line “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” in Mission Impossible.
Henry should have stuck to voice-overs.
Anyway, the movie really sucked the big wazoo, “Why? There were no conversations with the Big Guy Upstairs. Instead, there were serious gaps in the audio track. You’d listen to needle drop music while watching long landscape shots reminiscent of inspirational posters seen at a Hallmark store.
I think the conversations were edited out of the Chinese Version of this movie, transforming this flick into Conversations with No One.
As for the entire seven-years of The Golden Girls?
We highly recommend not watching more than 14 episodes in one sitting.
Or, just watching Kunming’s own live version in Green Park.
If I had the amount of money invested in my mouth invested in my 401K, I could be retired by now.
But as it is, I have to see the dentist—in China–about molar number 18.
This tooth has been through the ringer, surviving everything from a root canal to a cracked crown.
China has dental care, but it’s different than what we are used to in the states.
They have everything from men selling false teeth in the park to storefront practices. These dental offices remind me of barbershops with big chairs in the window.
Bystanders can watch you drool as the dentist drills.
Being a Westerner, I’d attract a crowd.
I talked to American teachers about “tooth hurty”.
Here are some of the tips I got from others who survived the dental chair:
“Don’t go to a Singaporean dentist. They don’t believe in Novocain, even if they pull teeth”.
“If you get Novocain, ask for the foreign “imported stuff”. The Chinese stuff doesn’t work.
“If you get a crown, make sure it’s made in overseas. The local ones might be made with lead.”
And my favorite comment:
“Did I mention you can get Percocet over the counter?”
The recommended dentist was bi-lingual. Still, I brought a Chinese friend to help translate. My first appointment was last Sunday at 2:30.
Doctors and dentists work 7 days a week here.
The dentist had a sign in his office: Trustworthy Dental. It was in a high-rise –not as posh as Michigan Avenue office– but was reminiscent of the dental office I went to as a kid.
There were still a lot of forms to fill out but they were all in Chinese.
Plus, there wasn’t an office assistant or MUSAC playing.
After the dentist X-rayed my tooth, he handed me a crown catalog. I get to choose the model and make of my new molar.
It really wasn’t that bad.
I am experiencing a bit of sticker shock on the price of the crown. The price of crowns start at about $50 and max out around $800. That’s a lot of egg rolls. sI’m still dilly-dallying over which one to get.
Anyway, no more candy for me.
It’s weird. When you’re an American living somewhere else, you don’t know where you belong anymore.
Our trip back to the states was like Alice stepping back through the looking glass having tea with the Mad Hatter on one side and sipping Starbucks on the other.
Since the flight crossed the international date line, we arrived in the US before we left China.
A little of the Alice experience.
Once we arrived, we wanted a bit of both worlds. That’s why we brought four empty suitcases allowing us to bring 200 pounds of American jabberwocky back to Kunming.
Jeff and I filled them up during a few trips to Costco. Our booty included duct tape, sharpie markers, ball jars, tootsie rolls, industrial size jars of nutella, vanilla, cupcake liners, bubble yum, circus peanuts, and a hunk of velveeta.
The remaining space went to an assortment of books snagged at a used book store.
There were a few American “luxuries” we couldn’t pack, such as snuggly soft laundry. We don’t have a clothes dryer in China, so everything from our underwear to Levi 505s are as crunchy as corn flakes.
We packed our brains with flat screen memories, including multiple episodes of quality TV programming including 1000 Ways to Die, the Housewives of Beverly Hills, and COPS.
Now we’re back in China and our American adventure seems like a weird dream. Weirder yet, we aren’t sure what side of the looking glass China is. All we know is that we are home (as twisted as that sounds) and we can indulge on camel kabobs and American candy on the same day.