Since we’ve been here, we’ve met people from a variety of provinces, municipalities, and villages. And what we’ve found is that even though the Chinese language in written format is consistent, the spoken language varies greatly, with many dialects. Which leads to the story of the Lori/Pat dialect.
While in Shanghai, Pat and Lori began practicing some Chinese words that we could use to break the ice with the people we would meet during the exchange. Pat had downloaded an e-book on her iPad that contained basic vocabulary words (e.g. hello, numbers, yes, no, thank you, etc.). The best part (at least what we thought was the best part) was it has an audio function that allows you to hear a word pronounced — very important for a language that has four distinct tones (at least for Mandarin speakers – Cantonese has more!) What this means is that a single “word” can have four different meanings, depending on the tone used when speaking the word.
Pat and Lori began to practice with each other by listening to the dulcet tones of our audio e-book instructor and carefully repeating after her. We thought we were doing well until we met up with Angela and began practicing our words on her – she couldn’t understand us at all! Neither could the Mandarin speakers that we’ve met from various libraries – but we were able to understand each other – so we determined that we had inadvertently created our own dialect, in a country that already has many.
What’s been most humorous about this attempt to “learn” a little language is that we continue to practice words together – often muttering repeated words or people’s names to each other in the car or other random times – as we try to speak in the appropriate tones, which likely makes us sound a little nutty to those around us. Can you imagine hearing someone repeating the word for library several times to themselves? While we have made some progress in recognizing certain words in conversations, we still struggle with the pronunciation of many words, but we’re determined to keep working on our Lori/Pat dialect until it becomes recognizable to others…
As we approach the end of our time in China, we’ve been reflecting on the fact that when we return home, it may take some adjustment back to our “normal” lives – not for the reasons you may think – but because the Chinese hospitality is amazing and makes us feel like Rock Stars!
Typically, when we arrive at a library, there’s a group of people to meet us, such as the Library Director, staff members, and always a photographer who documents each moment of our visit. Thus, getting out of the car, we are “bombarded” with camera flashes as people greet us. This must be what Madonna feels like when she gets out of a car.
Speaking of transportation, we have the great benefit of having a driver take us to various locations (which is probably for the best, as we wouldn’t want to attempt to drive here where lanes are merely a suggestion and turning into oncoming traffic is a frequent and common occurrence). The best part is, when it’s time to leave a place, our car and driver magically appear, ready to help us with any bags or luggage and whisk us away to our next scheduled stop.
Typically, during a library tour, we have an entourage of library staff that follow us and offer to hold any bags we may have and they’ve even offered to take pictures for us with our cameras, so we don’t have to do it ourselves!
We just can’t say enough about our appreciation for our wonderful hosts – they are incredibly gracious and attentive and have made our stay unforgettable. Sigh…it’s going to be tough going back to regular citizen status. 🙂
Fujian province has many geothermal hot springs and consequently many spas. Although residents don’t enjoy swimming at the beach, they do enjoy going to the spa for a hot soak, especially in the winter. Massages are also popular and are considered a good way to maintain a healthy body. There are commercial spas that offer a wide variety of massage techniques and there are traditional Chinese medicine establishments that offer Chinese massage treatments as one option for medical treatment.
Our last morning in Xiamen was unscheduled, and Xu, our host, proposed going together for a massage. There was much discussion about where to go and what kind of massage have but it turned out that the Chinese medical clinic was the most convenient option on a Sunday morning so we agreed to give it a try in the spirit of having a cultural experience. Angela was delighted, as she goes for a Chinese massage each month in Portland. Pat was happy to have some kinks worked out of her back after hauling heavy luggage around for several weeks and Lori was willing to give it a go. We shared a room with 3 massage tables, 3 technicians clad in white nurses uniforms, a cup of tea beforehand, and then the experience of having intense pressure applied from head to toe and occasional moans and groans when one of us reached our pain limit and had to beg for mercy. Now we know what it feels like when a Chinese doctor works on opening a blocked channel in the body. It hurts! Final verdict on repeating the experience: Angela – yes! Pat – maybe… Lori – no thanks!