They say only seven percent of communication is verbal.
In China, that seven percent makes one hundred percent ofdifference.
Take for instance, last week at the open air market. I wanted to buy meat and couldn’t tell if a ground selection was beef or pork.
So, I did what any sane person would do.
I started to moo. Then oink.
I found out quickly thata moo isn’t a moo in Chinese. And an oink isn’t an oink. But a white person imitating Porky Pig in China is spectacle.
Who’d ever thunk that a moo isn’t the universal sound for beefy bovines. Definitely not the lady holding the meat cleaver behind the counter. She thought I was nuts.
Cock-a-doodle-doo isn’t universal either. In Korean and Chinese, the feather covered morning alarm clock goes: cokyo, like toyko with a “K”.
Since body language and making animal sounds are about as useful in China as an American Express card, I call on my Pictionary skills when shopping. If you don’t have command of the Chinese language, you use the next best thing: an ink pen.
Like the time I saw this tasty selection.
I don’t even think Julia Child could tell was this is.
Being lost for words, I sketched a rabbit and showed it to the woman behind the counter.
Next, I drew a rotisserie style rodent…
Luckily, that was strike number two.
Then I picassoed another poultry selection: chicken.
I handed over my pen and the woman drew a mystery bird with a bill.
I think she doodled a duck.
However, when after examingng the crispy selection, I think she was involved in a little switch and bate.
The moral of this blog is?
When in doubt, don’t oink. Doodle.
Here are more tasty selections that uh don’t need explanation.
A life time ago, when visiting the Chichen Itza ruins in Mexico, a local gave me some advice. “These Mayan ruins can either be a magnificent temple or just a bunch of rocks, depending on what you know about them. It’s the difference between Chicken Itza and Chicken Pizza”.
So last weekend, when I visited a famous Buddhist temple in Kunming, all I saw was a Chinese thin crust with extra garlic. I had no clue about the history of the temple or what any of the little plaques said. Who cares, it was still pretty.
This bamboo graffiti could be a vulgar as what you see spray-painted in the alleys of Chicago, but was prettier.
Was this the Chinese version of the “poppy field snooze scene” in the Wizard of Oz? The old guy looks a bit like the cowardly lion.
This bronze statue of an ox getting it’s butt jumped by a wildcat. It’s to Kunming what the billy-goat is to the Chicago Cubs. You see it everywhere. Hopefully, it’s luckier.
Here’s a Chinese guy trying to speak squirrel.
Here’s the entrance to the park. There could be a nudist colony behind the trees. We’ll never know.
Or this doorknocker. Does it mean that an Amyway distributor lives there or a pitbull?
Who cares what any of it means. The park was pretty and spring is awesome in Kunming. Everywhere smells like a Glade Plug-in (except, of course, the squatty potties).
If I blogged about all of the weird experiences I’ve been having in China, I would never leave my computer. Here are a few topics I wanted to write about but never did:
Dropping my sunglasses in a squatty potty. No, I did not retrieve them, but I did think about it.
Help! I’m beginning to smell Chinese. Americans are sour to the Asian sniffer due to the amount of dairy we eat. But now, I’m losing my underarm cheddar and am beginning to smell like a rip pot sticker. Keep in mind that “pot-stickers” is Jeff’s Chenglish term for “toilet skids”,
Help! Jeff is beginning to smell Chinese, both ends.
Signage in Bathrooms like this, that have rules regarding bodily functions.
The great wall of Soy Sauce.Across from this aisle is an equally massive selection of hot sauces and chili pastes. Rice is sold in bags the size of cement mix. Cooking oilcomes in gallons.
Debunking the U-haul Myth: Yes you can put a fridge on the back of your bike.
Propane Man: World’s most dangerous jobs that pay under 75 cents an hour.
Living south of the Yunnan River in China means one thing. There is no central heat. In other words, it can get colder than a witch’s titty in Kunming, even to a formal Chicagoan who’s survived blizzards, sleet, ice-storms and negative wind chill.
But leave it to the ingenious Chinese to have several industries devoted to Yang, or warmth. You can buy space heaters, bed warmers, electric slippers to keep you warmer than a Szechwan hot pot. There are even fuzzy toilet seat covers to keep your cheeks from getting chapped. But my favorite Chinese innovation is knitting.
OK, I know the Scots think they’ve cornered the market on wool wonders, making bulky cream-colored sweaters to go with their kilts, but in China, knitting needles are as common as chopsticks. No matter where you go, there are industrious women pearling one then dropping two stitches, without the help of a pattern. This fruit vendor at the wet market could weigh apples and count my change without dropping a stitch.
I got into the Yarnia craze, too. While I’ve never been a knitter. I do crochet, a craft I learned from my Grandma Krieger as a child. So over the winter, I kept my fingers nimble by making several scarves and baby blankets. I would crochet while curled up under our heated “cuddle cocoon”. We’d drape a comforter over a space heater, and I’d crochet while Jeff would watch bootleg DVDs.
Chinese space heaters are designed to go under sheets, or so we were told. I did have an electric sheet-warming-water-bottle that was shaped as a fuzzy bunny. It caught on fire and exploded. Don’t worry: when the bunny over heated, its innards expanded like an oompa loompa from Willie Wonkaland, popped, causing it to douse its own flames.
But back to Yarnia. In China, you don’t buy yarn at Joan’s fabrics, but little yarn shops like this one. They are full of colorful balls of cashmere, cotton and wool yarn of every color of the rainbow. The old lady, the wise and all knowing Queen of Yarnia, would let me into her shop. She knew how much yarn one would need to make a scarf, hat, snuggie or whatever.
After I’d pick out some yarn, she would tell me the price per kg and how much was needed. The queen would then use her hand cranked spindle to wind me my own skein, like a wise oldChinese Rumplestiltskin.
As much as I hate the cold, the trips to Yarnia made it fun. But now spring has sprung in Kunming.Adventures to Yarnia will have to wait until he fall.