Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bits And Pieces

Oh readers of the Shanghai Diaries, how I have forsaken thee! I have been so lax of late in writing. Please accept my humblest of apologies for this dreadful sin. I will stop short of promising to write more often for we all no how that goes.

There isn't really anything major to report, just a few odds and ends.

I got some house shoes. I'm not really a house shoe kind of guy, but in this house I really need them. We have those wood tile floor things instead of carpet and while it looks real pretty, it gets awfully dirty awfully quick.

Seriously, I sweep every day and every day there is a new layer of dust and dirt and crumbs and toenails and little pieces of paper and everything else under the sun. It is utterly disgusting. Especially when I start to realize that all of this stuff gets on the floor in carpeted rooms too, but there it is less easy to see and less easy to clean. How long did I use to go in my carpeted rooms before vacuuming? How many toe nails were buried in that carpet? How much crap doesn't even get picked up by the vacuum?


The thing is that even though I try to sweep regularly there is still always some dust and stuff sitting on the floor. This gunk gets on my lovely white socks and makes them a dingy, dirty color. Thus the house shoes.

Funny thing is I have big feet and the Chinese are mostly small. It took me two stores and about five bins to finally find a pair that fit me. And they don't really even fit. My heel just comes out over the end of the shoe. And they stink. Stink bad. They have that - been sitting packaged up with a bunch of other shoes smell. So I've been airing them out for days and wearing them anyways to add some more worn in smells.

But they fell ok, and that's pretty good.

My Chinese is getting slightly better. When I call for water the people almost always understand me on the first try. Taxi drivers sometimes understand where I'm going.

I have a little card that tells the cab drivers where I want to go for most places in Chinese. I pretty much use that when going somewhere, but I do know how to say how to get home and I always try to use that on the cabbies when I am out. Lots of times this works perfectly well as my apartment complex is a popular spot with lots of people.

Sometimes though, they don't know where I live and I have to give instructions. I know some nearby streets and I like to practice their names on the cab drivers just to see if I can get home. I also sometimes actually know which way to go and can give the no-so-sure taxi drivers directions.

It is fun. And interesting. Tonight we went out to dinner (as we often do on Tuesday as some restaurants offer half off on Tuesdays for teachers) and the cab driver wasn't really sure where we lived. We ran through the street names and he still wasn't sure, so I started giving him directions. "Turn right" I said confidently at one street. And we went right. A few blocks down we suddenly realized right should have been left. While I know how to say "right" and "left" I have no idea how to say "turn around." Neither does Amy and she was in the front seat. With some grunting and hand motions the driver got it and did turn around and we found our way home.

As mentioned I have a little card that tells taxi drivers the names of various places to go. Usually this works most excellently, but a few nights ago it was awful. We waited for ages on the cab in the first place. Then the first one that stopped was from another part of town and had no idea where we wanted to go. The second one didn't seem to be confident either but was willing to give it a shot.

He looked at my card then pointed to the name above where we wanted to go like the two were near each other. I tried to tell him no, but I guess I did a bad job at it. We then took off. Now Shanghai is a very big city with lots of roads. Cab drivers go all sorts of different directions when going to the same places. There are at least five different paths you can go when heading from my place to the nearest subway stop. So when I say that I wasn't entirely sure where I was going this night it is entirely true.

I kind of thought he was headed the wrong direction, but not being sure of this and not having any idea of how to talk to the driver about it I let him go his own way. I got a bit more nervous when he started talking to other cab drivers when we were stopped at red lights.

Eventually I realized we were headed to an area I had been before (which was actually the place named above the place we wanted to go on that card.) I wasn't really sure how close the two places were together, and I kind of figured the cab would let us off at the other place and that was good enough for me.

Sure enough we made it to that place and the driver was about ready to let us go, when he chatted with another cabbie, realized he was in the wrong place and took off. I should have told him to stop, but for whatever reason I let him go.

Turns out our destination was pretty close to where we live so we did this whole circle. Actually our destination is pretty much exactly a straight line from where we live and we spent around 40 minutes and 40 RMB to drive around town for a trip that should have been 5 minutes and about 15 RMB.

So yeah, my Chinese is getting a little better.

No comments: