Sometimes, okay often, I will ask Shujie what something means when someone here does something that isn’t something I’m used to. Sometimes she gives me an explanation, which I may accept but other times she just says, “it’s the culture”. I’m sorry but I don’t accept that. It’s the culture for a reason and I want to know the reason.
Yesterday her friend, her husband, and their daughter came to pick us up as we were all going out for dinner. We went to Pizza Hut because their daughter likes it. And even by Pizza Hut standards, the pizza was awful. Anyhow that’s not the point.
Shujie had bought a purse for her friend (a nice expensive one) and a jacket for the daughter. She left the price tags on which I found strange. I asked her why and she told me it was the culture. I asked her why it was the culture and she said because it was the culture. I could get no answer. My guess (which was confirmed by a Chinese man I had lunch with today) was that the price tag is left on so you show the receiver of the gift what you think of them in a dollar and cents way (or RMB way). Of course, we take the price tag off so no one will know what we spent and possibly be offended. It’s these little things that fascinate me and I wish sometimes I could get a better answer than “it’s the culture”. I know it’s the culture, but why?
Yesterday we went to her older brother’s apartment to visit him and his wife. It was nice to see them as always and his English has improved. I think he’s up to about 15 words now. He tries so hard and he does want to be able to talk to me. I think he should try adult classes because he’s motivated and that’s half the battle.
We went out for lunch to the “Fish with Glasses” restaurant (or something like that). It was a shou-kow place (bbq). The lamb was the best I’ve ever had. They told me that this was supposedly the best bbq place in Baoding. I ate like a pig and was quite happy. I expected to lose about 30 pounds by the New Year but that’s not going to happen. I’m eating almost normally and much better than I did in Korea. I have chicken for dinner, I have beef for dinner, I have rice for dinner, and sometimes a cheese and tomato sandwich. I’m quite content with what I’m eating.
Her brother told us that his best friend has a son who is an English teacher and they wanted to know if I would mind getting together to talk with him. Naturally I said it was no problem. So today we had lunch with my brother and sister-in-law, this Chinese English teacher who is in his early 30’s, and his mother. We went to a Brazilian BBQ place and it was awful, as I knew it would be. I had noticed it from a taxi window one day and I made a comment that I saw it. I never said I wanted to eat there. But in their continuing efforts to please me, we ended up here. I don’t think anyone liked it.
The Chinese English teacher was a pleasant fellow and he’s unmarried and lives at home. Like most Chinese, he’s never been anywhere. I love when they ask me for advice such as “how can I improve my spoken English”. The answer is “you can’t”. You need to be in an environment where you speak it as the only way to get better is to do it. I wish I had a better answer but that’s it. I did suggest speaking into a tape recorder and playing it back to hear what you sound like. It would be a pain, but it might help.
After lunch we were going to head back to Shujie’s son’s apartment but first the Chinese guy and his mother asked if we could meet again. I left it up to Shujie hoping she’d say we’re busy. She didn’t so the plan was to have lunch at their house tomorrow and then spend the afternoon together playing the piano and singing songs. I kid you not. Apparently they have a KTV setup at their place. We call it Karaoke but for some reason it’s called KTV here.
On the way home I said I really didn’t want to go because I’d used up all my good stories. Shujie said she didn’t want to go either so she would do the typical Chinese thing. She would call them and lie and said we had another pressing engagement at the same time. I said, “you’ll lie”, and she said “it’s the culture”. You always say yes and then later cancel. But she wimped out and called her brother to make our excuses. You use your older sibling to do these jobs when possible. He was quite nice and said he’d do it. I guess it’s quite normal.
Tonight we just stayed in. QiJi brought home McDonald’s for me and I just played on the computer and that’s what Shujie did too. Tomorrow we have lunch with some of her friends. I really don’t want to go since none of them speak English and they have no interest in speaking to me anyhow. If they really wanted to talk to me, they’d use Shujie as a translator. Maybe I won’t go. I’ll see how I feel.
I’m Boadinged out now. What’s left to do? We’ve seen everyone worth seeing and this is one boring place. It’s only Monday evening and I have until Friday before we leave. I wonder what unknown excitement lays in store for us.