Sunday, June 26, 2005

Arcades and high-schoolers

Writing like this makes it difficult to keep up. I have pages and pages in my notebook to type up, but there are constantly incidents where I have trouble keeping them in my notebook (such as this entry). Because of that, things might become very anti-chronomatic, that or I might fake the date of entries and mention in the later entries to go back.
Anyway, last night I declared war on Chinese. Directly after my entry at the mall, I realized I had not really talked to a single Chinese person. Everything I believe in involves me being willing to take on situations. If I can't do that, then I am not the person I want to be. So directly after my conversation, I went over to two girls who were studying, not entirely to ruin their concentration, but partially because of it.
It was the sort of challenge that makes traveling fun, calluses developed on the fingers from flipping my phrase book so fast. Unfortunately, my guide book is clearly meant for the very young and confused. Whereas I am both, I am not quiet that young, nor that confused. For instance, I wanted to say someone had a lot of energy, but my book does not have the word energy. But if I wanted to say I like to take ecstasy, they had me covered (wor o-ar chir mee-hwun-jee).
I have now talked to a few people, and the conversations follow a certain model, determined by the "meeting people" in the conversation section of my guide book. "I am studying Chinese, what are you Studying?" *nod to response*, "Do you like music" *nod to response*, "What type of music do you like?" *nod to response*..."I am from Colorado. Where are you from?" *nod to the answer of "Tainan"*. Then I have to get somewhat desperate with the guide, I actually ended up asking a group of high-school girls, "What do you think we should do about pollution? Recycle?" *mmmmmm*.
This has not stopped me from making friends however. The two girls that were studying were studying Chinese calculus. That gave me so much joy that I did not even know what to think. Chinese calculus has existed in my mind as the best concept for some time, so seeing it being done gave me a real kick. I decided that by the end of next summer, I want to be able to do at least some basic Chinese calculus. I need to learn calculus, I need to learn Chinese, it is only natural. That or I can figure out how to spell quiet versus quite. That will be a big step forward.
So after my short, and very limited conversation with the calculus girls, I explored the mall more. I got absolutely trashed at a video game that I thought I was good at. It was not being beaten by the guy who clearly played the game all day that hurt me, it was being beaten by his girlfriend that got me. Especially while he was routing for me during the match (mind you he had beaten me four or five times in a row). In Japan I would expect that sort of thing, but here I thought I could at least beat one of them once.
The mall did not have that much more than I originally described. Across the street was a large arcade. I changed in three dollars worth of money and got back just a mind boggling number of tokens. I realized that this was their equivalent of a penny arcade later. I did not want to spend the rest of my evening at this kind of weird arcade, and I saw some kid wandering around watching other people play things. I ended up playing a gun game where you shot zombies (he was already watching it, I am not his parents!) and a game where you drum to Aqua's "I am a Barbie Girl" with him. Then I just gave him the rest of my tokens.
After leaving, I ran into a group of girls I met the night before. It was funny, my mom told me that she pictured me meeting all of Tainan with my smiles and such. Basically she called it, to my surprise. These girls were actually critical to my first story, however their assistance was cut because of time constraints (the same reason the story basically abruptly ends).
After I found the McDonald's, I remained lost, I just knew I was in the right area. I kept passing it, sort of like a tether, or as if I had one of those collars that zaps dogs when they go too far away. In other words, I was making a tight circle. Eventually I saw a group of young girls, which as a habit of mine, I find to be a source of great...conversation. So I showed them a little tiny map on the back of my hotel and asked which direction was my needed street.
They could not tell me, however, they were able to point out where the McDonald's was on my tiny tiny map on the back of the hotel's business card. I liked that they did this because I did not point out that I knew where the McDonald's was, they just assumed I did, like a US consulate.
The girls were sweet and animated. They were also very confusing at times. One had a tendency to drift into a flood of Chinese. Because she was using it with her friends, she would forget, well, the point. She would turn to me, and blast me with a river of Chinese. Even here friends would give her confused looks. Then she would realize what she did, blush, and laugh. She did this at least three times.
So yesterday, I was leaving the arcade and not really looking anywhere when I am stopped by incredible laughter. The girls stopped me and were very happy to see me. To be honest, I was very happy to see them. I had somewhat of a lonely day. Although I felt great and happy, I had just got a taste of incredible embarrassment trying to speak mandarin, it was time for a real bite.
So, armed with my phrase book, I simply dove into the language, and it was ugly. However it worked. One of them was actually very good at English, just not practiced. Slowly we developed into a fun Engrish conversation. This is where I got to ask my politically charged pollution question. Multiple times I thought about saying "You all are using me for sex," just assuming they would not understand me the first time I would say it. I decided it was not worth the risk.
Anyway, the girls eventually decided that the best decision for them to make was to ditch school and take me to get a photo with them. They were giving me one of those little photos that Asian girls carry like business cards, but they decided that they needed to add me to the mix. So essentially I was then kidnapped, but the handcuffs were replaced by adorable Chinese girls.
It was fun, hectic, and often loud. Normally when someone is way too loud for the situation, I get very embarrassed (I know I know, hypocritical and ironic). However, when you have no idea what they are saying, it is hard to get quite so mortified. They would scream with glee at odd things and kept things...exciting. I eventually learned the world is huoli, but this is where I realized that my guide book lacked the very critical word "energy."
We spent a number of hours together and I have to send them some of my photos. It was crazy and fun, a good start to mandarin and will be good motivation for the future. Also, I think that this is very quickly going to become the bachelor. Albeit they are high-school kids, but they are graduating? They each individually took me aside and talked to me, it was very fun and I continually felt flattered. I realize it is all shallow, but it is great for the ego.
To close with something silly rather than pretentious: they tried to guess my age at one point. The two main guesses were 25 and 30.

2 comments:

javajake said...

In manderin, how does one say "would you like to touch my pen...is?"

Matthew K Warner said...

You know family is going to read this :).

Sorry everyone, my friends are very crude, I would NEVER...mmm....