About Eggplants and Scorpions – My Experience in China 6
Everything Eggplant or what?
Week one in China – and what an interesting one, too!!! Let me tell you about how I got scammed by Art students on Wangfujing Street, how I lost my Chinese virginity (the language – what is your dirty mind thinking about?) and eating Scorpions – all in one exciting day. This week was my first week of full time internship in China at Winglong PTY, and now I am actually quite busy. My coworkers had the great idea, that I could help them with their translations from Chinese to English. Just for the record, I have only studied Chinese for one week now!!! But they have this great program that shows you the different meanings of the Chinese characters, so I am sitting in front of my computer with a screen full of Chinese characters and try to build meaningful sentences (or should I say guess?!?). I really have to say that this is a rather challenging but yet very creative task!!! Even though this is not really what I expected, it is still very interesting and I am happy that I have something to do now. May be later on, I will get some more business-oriented tasks.
My Chinese is also coming along. Even though I only had 4 lessons so far, I already started to communicate a little. I can tell my cab driver where I want to go and if he tries to cheat me, I can give him directions (but only to and from work to my apartment, otherwise I am the stupid laowei, who doesn’t know her way around…). As of right now, my communication is more or less one-way, which means I can tell them something, but I don’t understand a word of their response. So my biggest success of this week was, when one of my coworkers, who only speaks Chinese, came up to me and talked to me. You have to know that Chinese don’t bother to slow down, when they talk to a foreigner. So all I understood was: blabla bla blablabla xi gua blabla bla bla bla! Xi gua happens to be a real word and means watermelon. Therefore, the first word I understood in Chinese happened to be watermelon. How exiting is that?!? Well, I can understand, if you shake your heads now, but for me it was a real breakthrough and even though I know that the word watermelon is not one of the most essential words that one should learn in a foreign language, but I was nevertheless proud of my achievement. It gave me a lot of motivation to work hard, so I can soon talk about other things than fruit.
Wangfujing Street Beijing – Street Food and Art Scams
On Saturday, I did not do much, some chores, chatting with friends, sleeping, and some studying. But today was more exiting. I decided to do some essential sightseeing. Since I had already visited most of the sights on a previous visit, I decided to go the most famous shopping street in Beijing, Wangfujing, which I had not seen yet. It is a huge pedestrian area, which is good, because this way, I did not have to fear that I might get run over by a car… (I stopped counting how many times this ALMOST happened to me…) Wangfujing is located east of the Forbidden City and full of malls, shops, locals and lots and lots of tourists.
I had not eaten all day and it was already well past lunch time, so I was searching for some local and affordable food. My way took me to a side alley off of Wangfujing, where I found one small food stand and restaurant after the other. They were full of Chinese, but no tourists, so I knew I was in the right place. This is where the exciting part starts: I decided to be braver than I ever have been in my life, so I ordered “Squid on a stick”, which is a very famous local snack. However, this was not all… Are you all seated? I also ordered “Scorpion on a stick”!!! You have to know that these were only the small ones, but I did not dare to eat the huge black scorpion. Not yet… I know most of you won’t believe me, so of course I had some pictures take that prove it.
After that, I decided that this was enough strange food for one day and I got myself a nice coffee late, double shot, low fat milk at Starbucks. While I was enjoying my coffee outside in the sun, sitting on some stairs, two young students came up to me and started talking with me. They were very friendly and we had a great chat. They told me that they are art students in Beijing and that their university had an exhibition that day. They asked me if I wanted to have a look at their work and since I was glad that I found some nice company, I agreed. Of course, they wanted me to buy some of their art and I am pretty sure, that this was a scam. But I thought what the heck, I really like those drawings and even though I could have gotten them a lot cheaper somewhere else, they were still very affordable, so I bought them. So now, I am the proud owner of four Chinese bamboo drawings in the four seasons. I am pretty sure that the exact same drawings will be up for sale tomorrow and will be bought by another stupid laowei. But as I already said, what the hell, I had a great afternoon, I am looking forward to putting those drawings on my wall, and I had a nice chat with those young cheaters… 😉 But since you are probably not keen on repeating my mistakes, you can learn about other common Tourist Scams in Beijing here.
You have to know that foreigners are always cheated in China and I think, the best way to deal with that is acceptance and not getting angry. When I ordered my scorpions and squid today on that Wangfujing side street, the Chinese guy in front of my paid less than I did. But this is China, take it or leave it!!! Accept it with a smile and go on with your great adventure and exciting experience that you are having. At least that is my way of seeing it.
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