This summer, when I was in America, a lot of people said a lot of nice things about me. They said they admired me for living in China, or they thought I was so brave or cool, for making this strange country my new home. And that’s nice to hear but I’m not deluded enough to actually believe it, because I know the truth.
Since I have no shame, I’m going to pull back the curtain. Just to show my life isn’t so cool and I’m not nearly as bad ass as you think. Things are easier than when I first arrived but I wouldn’t say I’m flawlessly living my life everyday.
Here’s a little story to prove my point…
I was on my way to Walmart which is located in the bottom level of a mall. There was a little restaurant in the mall too, and I wanted to eat something quick. It was a little noodle/rice place, pretty typical.
I walk in, hold up one finger and say “yi wei,” which means one person.
She holds up one finger and says “yi tiao?” Now, I don’t know what the heck ‘tiao’ means but I just nod anyway. (That’s my favorite trick here, just nod and eventually you get something.)
She shouts “yi tiao!” to the waitress who picks up something wrapped in a plastic bag, grabs a few napkins, and puts it in front of me. It’s some sort of wrapped roll, like a spring roll but not fried. Inside was veggies and it was pretty good. But, I’m kinda confused at why I got it. Is it some sort of appetizer? Is it free? Did I accidentally order it?
I finish pretty quick, but I’m not sure if I’m expected to order anything else. The waitress didn’t come back, but I decided to play with my phone until other customers came in, just to see. A few college kids came in within a few minutes, sat down and didn’t get this spring roll. It wasn’t some sort of freebie appetizer.
So, I kinda looked around, decided to just stand up and go to the cash register. The owner met me there and I paid a few kuai for what I had eaten (about .60US), then I left, really confused. I really have no idea why she assumed I wanted that. Do other foreigners go there only for the spring roll? Or is there one blond foreigner that goes there for the spring roll and she assumed I was her?
Who knows. I’ll never know why I got that random spring roll and that’s kinda life in China. Even though I’m fluent, even though I have lived here for more than 5 years, I don’t know what’s going on half the time. I’ve got it figured out enough to get what I need, even if it’s not exactly what I want (I needed to eat, but I probably wouldn’t have ordered the spring roll).
And that’s okay. If I wanted a comfortable easy life I would have stayed in america. I don’t care that I have awkward situations, or feel confused often.
In fact, I kinda like it. It keeps you on your toes and ensures life is never boring. So thanks for the compliments this summer you guys, I’m just sad to tell you it’s not true and I am as awkward and clumsy in China as I was in America. Ha!
Tiao means like “roll/piece”. Like yi tiao yu (a piece of fish). I was so shocked because I thought how could the shop owner have thought you wanted yi tiao Mian (a piece of noodle) HAHAHA but turns out they sell spring rolls too and spring rolls use the “tiao” too. A new reader to your blog and saw no one commented to clarify so I thought I’ll do!
Ah, maybe that’s it. But why did she assume I wanted that one spring roll and not another one with another flavor? I still go to that Walmart often to shop but I’ve never been back to that shop, haha.