What’s in a name…

“I view living the day-to-day grind sort of like smoking. It’s not cool, it’s bad for you and in the end, it just leaves you feeling dirty and used.”

Names. A funny thing at the best of times, in China it’s a bit of an on-going practical joke that Westerners use to communicate to those that come after them. Many Chinese people do not have English names, but want them and are more than happy to take whatever name may be suggested to them by there Western “friend”, “teacher” or what have you.

The interesting part is, largely when put on the spot, most people are a little strapped to come up with a good name that well defines the person it’s being given to. My friend Tom, for instance, has grown tired of giving the names “Steven” and “Robert” and has resorted to handing out NBA player’s names – some good solid Muslim monikers.

You also get a good portion of Chinese who try to figure it out for themselves and end up with names like Iceburg, River, etc, or with the names Cherry and Strawberry – the handles two of my Chinese teachers (teacher’s assistants) go by.

I, for the most part, still feel a bit responsible for the future attention the name may be given – and so have stuck with some safer choices. Today I named a girl (the cousin of Doris, one of the women I work with) Kylie and my personal fav. to date was giving a girl in my adult class the name Dana. I mean, these are not horrible names, and very few Chinese people have them… so for that, I think they should be greatful. And yeah, sis, you should feel a bit cool that I honoured some cute Chinese girl by giving her the name of my sister. Oh, Vanessa, you’ve got a Chinese counterpart too.

My friend Doris.

The quite cute Maggie – who I thought I had conned into teaching me how to cook Chinese, but she said her boyfriend would get jealous.

My “boss” Sherry. She’s awesome.

Annie, Doris and Maggie at the front reception desk – where I spend most my free time.

Told you I’d have some photos soon – wait.. there’s a couple more. I’m sorry that there’s nothing really exciting scenery-wise – but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but it’s cold.. and my motivation to go around clicking photos while freezing my digits off, even if for the benefit of this blog, is limited.

Bu Xing Jie – or The Walking Street – on which my school rests.

The front door to my school – I swear, it’s more inviting than it looks.

Another shot of Bu Xing Jie (pronounced Boo Sshing Jeeah).

I had my first Chinese lesson yesterday. It was awesome. Having now been here nearly two weeks I’ve picked up a good amount of the language (I think I’m actually ahead of my Thai) and it was nice to have a teacher put it into some sort of structure for me. While I’m certain I’ll not be close to fluent when I leave, I am confident I’ll be able to be functional.

All high on my new knowledge, I decided to put it to the test by grabbing some beer before my climb to my apartment (have I mentioned it’s 126 steps? – Before you say, “You counted?!?!” I want you to seriously consider what you would spend your time doing while climbing 126 steps every day?). I went into the local shop and blurted out my well rehersed Wo xiang yao si ping pi jiu – to which was responded an enthusastic string of Chinese that I cannot ever hope to put meaning to. See, something I keep forgetting, people will always assume foreigners cannot speak the language… until they do – and then they expect you to understand every word.

A rather confusing few minutes transpired whereby the woman gathered my request bottles, put them in a bag, handed me some bits of cut up cigarette packs with a load of Chinese characters written on them and looked at me expectedly… though not once trying to take the money from my out-stretched hand. She then went into a long, and I can only assume detailed, explanation of what the bits of cardboard were for – intermitantly pointing at empty bottles. I figured she must mean that I am to return the bottles to her – “no problem”, I said (which I now know is mei wen ti). Yet she still seemed reluctant to take my money – and insistant that I didn’t understand. So her husband gave it a try… to which I again said (while miming drinking the beer, pointing at empty bottles, and pointing at the shop), “no problem.”

Eventually I managed to give them my money, take the bottles and after counting to 126… receed to the safety of my apartment. First thing this morning I relayed the story to Doris… she laughed and confirmed that I need to bring the bottles back there – and if I do, my bits of cardboard will reward me with 2 kuai… ($0.30). Really… it was that big a deal.

Anyway… I just finished $0.15 of bottle refund, need to take a piss and head to bed. I’m super excited that I don’t have to work tomorrow. I’ve finally got some time off, having worked seven days in a row. I am going into Dalian tomorrow to meet up with the crew I trained with for some dinner and drinks – should be fun.


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