Ok, it's been a while since my last post and I have much to catch up on here. However, just thought I'd share a few random things I'm learning ...
...To find out how old someone is here, you have to ask what year she was born – can’t just ask “how old are you?” Why? Because a Chinese baby is 1 at birth. However, when talking with Laowais, some (but not all) Chinese people tell you their age in “Western.” So you just can’t tell for sure how old someone is (in “Western”) unless you ask what year she was born.
...To find out someone’s birthday (in Western terms), you need to ask what day she was born – can’t just ask “when is your birthday.” Why? Because birthdays are based on the lunar calendar here. So a person’s birthday “date” changes every year. So often, the person will tell you the date that they celebrate their birthday THIS year (or, if it’s already past, the next year.) However, when talking with Laowais, some folks will tell you their “Western” birth date. You just can’t know unless you clarify.
...When speaking English, it's very important to always clarify numbers – especially those that end in “-teen” or “-ty.” Neither I nor J can distinguish between “15” and “50” when said by someone here (nor can others hear the difference when we say it). We have been late – or early – a few times because we said 10:15, but the local person heard 10:50 (and/or vice-versa). This is so even though we clarify/repeat a few times. So, I had to learn to say 10:15 as “ten-one-five” and 10:50 as “ten-five-zero.”... Of course, we can avoid that entire problem by just saying the time in Mandarin: “shí diǎn wǔ fen” is clearly different than “shí diǎn wǔshí fen.” I’m starting to do that.
...Learning how to speak Mandarin using Pinyin (or understanding Mandarin when written in Pinyin) is easier than I thought it would be. At first, it was really hard. I mean, why use English letters if you’re not going to use English pronunciations??? Why’d they make “e” sound like “u” and “u” sound like “o” and “i” sound like “e” and “x” sound like “sh” and “z” sound like “g”?? Crazy!! At first it was like having to do a double translation: English > Pinyin > Mandarin. However, after a few weeks of that, it got much easier.
...I am not (at all) good at repeating tones/Mandarin words that I hear. But if I SEE them in pinyin, I can get relatively close. Well, except for certain sounds. Like the ü sound – which I doubt I’ll ever be able to say correctly in a sentence. (Ok. Say “oooooooooo.” Feel how your mouth is shaped. Now, make your mouth form that “ooooo” sound shape – but instead of saying “ooooooooooo” say “eeeeeeee” BUT DON’T MOVE your lips! Just say eeeee “through” an “oooooo” mouth. Go ahead. Try it! :::sigh::: My mouth just won’t work that way. just decided that I’d avoid any words with that sound in it. Only problem is, Mandarin for “attorney” is “lǜshī” – and in order to say any month, you have to say yuè – and anytime “u” comes after “y” in pinyin, it’s actually the ü sound. :::sigh::: My poor tutor. I just tell her we need to skip that word and I'll work on it. After a bit, she agrees. 'Cause I'm just not getting it right.
...One can't assume that just because you bought something at a Lawoai store - or at a "reputable" local store, that it is safe and authentic. Exhibit A: We got a jar of peppers from a "reputable" (foreign-based) store. Two weeks later, I realized that I'd experienced ... digestive distress ...after each time that J used the specific jar of peppers. Exhibit B: I purchased "Colombian Coffee Beans" from a "reputable" store. The first two days that J used them, it was like he had morning sickness (dizziness, retching, etc.). !! And he NEVER gets sick. Exhibit C: I purchased a (sealed, of course) bottle of Smirnoff vodka. Not to drink (vodka and I do not mix well...) but for cleaning my vaping tanks (vodka is best cleaner, so I've been told. I still put it in the freezer. It's just what I've always done with vodka. Imagine my surprise when I took it out to use it -- and it was half frozen. According to the little freezer thermometer, the freezer is approx 20 celsius. So - either my thermometer is wrong and this freezer is really really really cold, or the stuff in that bottle isn't really 80 proof Smirnoff vodka.
All that being said, I've been purchasing vegetables and fruits from street vendors since we got here. And neither one of us has had a moment's issue from any of the street/wetmarket fresh fruits/veggies we've purchased. I'm becoming more and more enamored with fresh over canned ... it's better and safer. Here, at least.
Ah, I have so much more to share but the kitties are going stir crazy right now for some reason - and it's impossible to type with one cat laying over my arms and the other getting tangled in my feet. So clearly, I need to go play with them for a while.
Will try to catch up on all that's been happening real soon!.