First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Monday, April 30, 2007

T-Minus 10 Days: Gentlemen, Start Your Panic! (Part 1)

In honor of entering single digits in days until my departure, here are the Top 10 Things I Still Need To Do:

10.) Learn to enjoy Century Eggs: Haven't heard about these? A century egg is a raw egg that is wrapped in clay and lime and oh God, I don't know what else, and buried for a month, and when it comes out it looks like this:

(Credit to Wikipedia for this image)

Just remember: Someone, some time in the past, dug something like this out of the ground and thought "Oh, yeah! That looks GREAT! It looks like the devil himself barfed up the pit of evil from his soul, then wrapped it in lime and clay and buried it for a month! I'm SO getting me some of that!"

9. Get adapters for my electronics: I'm bringing a computer, iPod, various shaving implements, and a few other odds and ends. Now, they are from America, so they run on 120 volt alternating current, while China runs on the pure can-do dynamic energy of 1.3 billion people building what will soon be the world's largest economy. The adapter looks something like this:

8.) Adapt to the traffic:

By 'Adapt' I mean 'Avoid.' And remember, this video is of the drive-thru of a mid-sized McDonalds!

(Credit to wiser2001 for this video)

7.) Take up smoking: Apparently everyone in China smokes. I expect this practice was adopted as a little 'breath freshener' after eating century eggs.

6.) Give Mr. Chen something to eat: My wife and I have been listening to Pimsleur's Mandarin Chinese I audio program (great program, by the way, I highly recommend it), and just lately they've had us repeating a sentence that phonetically sounds something like "Chen Shienshung shien tsai sheung chir ee deeyar dongshee." Translated, it means "Mr. Chen would like to eat something now."

I just wish the lazy jerk would order his own darn food so I don't have to try to decipher that sentence again.

Numbers 5 through 1 coming soon!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How much will you give me...

...if I show up for my first day at work in Beijing wearing this?

"This is the traditional dress of my people. And now the formal ceremony of thanks: Please raise your Big Gulp of Diet Mountain Dew and your Twinkie..."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chinese for Dumb Dumb Stupidheads

That's the book I need. I've been using Chinese for Dummies and found it to be quite advanced. The author says things like "It's so easy! There's no need to conjugate verbs for tense or gender! Instead, you merely have to listen for contextual clues as to when things happened or add a particulate that indicates the sentence is a present perfect, and that the action indicated started at some indeterminate time in the past and is ongoing! What could be simpler?"

Then there are the tones. Four of them in Mandarin, to be exact. Except that there's also a neutral tone. So five. Five tones. And I swear that's it. But don't worry about it. Just let it come naturally. Just know that if your voice drops while you're saying a syllable instead of rising, you may be saying a completely different word.

An overview of the four tones:

1st TONE: High and level, like you're singing a note above your normal range
2nd TONE: Rising, as if you're asking a question
3rd TONE: Falling then rising, like you're Mr. Drysdale and you don't believe something
4th TONE: You must belch and try to swallow your tongue while saying this
NEUTRAL: A sound a thousand times more beautiful than the most beautiful sound you can imagine, but if you don't pronounce it JUST RIGHT it turns whatever you were saying into an unspeakable insult

Here is how the four tones impact the meaning of the syllable 'da.'

At least, this is what I've been able to gather from repeated viewings of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

So as you can see, once you have the basics, it's just a matter of learning thousands of unfamiliar sounds and stringing them together into unintelligible sentences. Which is why, about 15 minutes after I land in Beijing, an angry mob will set me on fire.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Me in China: An Artistic Rendering

I am a big man.

Not in the sense of important, or generous, but literally. I am 6 feet 4 inches, 220 pounds of pure buttery German-Irish goodness.

In Minnesota, I'm just a fairly big guy. In China, I have a feeling I will stand out a bit more.

Adding to this is my full beard. I've been spending time on some Beijing related message boards, and I asked how this would be viewed there. The reply? "In China, only monkeys and foreigners have [facial] hair."

So to help me envision how I'll feel when I'm there, I commissioned an artist's rendering of a typical street scene in Beijing and how I would appear.

Oh yeah. I'll blend right in.