I am writing tonight to tell you about a couple of funny/odd China experiences I have had this week. Both of these instances have involved me somewhat blending into Chinese society… until I open my mouth. Being half-Chinese has always made me feel unique, and kind of special. I liked that no one could guess my middle name and people often ask my sister’s and my ethnic background. For awhile when I was younger (I believe up until middle school) I thought I was Hawaiian and would tell people just that. I still had people in high school thinking I was. More so than in the United States, being half Chinese in China presents me with some unusual encounters that most (white) foreign teachers do not experience. Elle and the other teachers just get to laugh with/at me while this happens.
Earlier this week, Elle and I went to our usual hot pot restaurant with Alicia. Because Elle and I go twice sometimes three times a week we know (for the most part) what to order, but this time since we had a guest with us we thought we would spice things up and order a few new things. I stood up with the menu to go ask another table what something was called. We wanted these tofu balls… I know that sounds kind of weird but they are really good in hot pot. So I asked the table pointing at the tofu balls, “ji shi shenme?” (“What is that?”) While the people at the table were finding the tofu balls on the menu I hear a “FU YUAN!” from the table next to me… Now let me explain a little about resturant behavior in China in order for this story to make sense.
In China, a waiter or a waitress is called a Fu Yuan… the literal translation is a service person. When you want to order, need water, pay the bill, anything… all you have to do is yell fu yuan and the waiter/waitress will come to your table. In Americans eyes you would never do this at a restaurant unless you wanted your meal spit on before you ate. But in China this is the only way to get any kind of service from your waiter. Although I shouldn’t, I actually really enjoy yelling service person in a restaurant. I think this is because it is probably the only Chinese word I say where my tones are correct. I am really good at getting the waiters attention 🙂 Elle not so much… you would think her loud, high-pitched voice would warrant immediate attention but it doesn’t even phase the Chinese.
So I hear the “FU YUAN” being yelled in my ear and I looked up to the table next door. The girls at the table started asking or telling or I am not really sure but pointing to the menu and saying something in Chinese. I am shocked… this table thought I was the waitress hahahaha. I think the tone of my response was a little harsh, given the fact that I do look Chinese, but thats besides the point… I was caught off guard! I replied (in English), “I am NOT a fu yuan,” and walked away. Now that I am writing this I realize this probably doesn’t sound as funny to you readers back home but I’ll just tell you… this was really funny.
My next funny/odd China moment happened this morning. On my campus, the five foreign teachers have to give two lectures to businessmen from a steel plant nearby. Last week I lectured on family and this week I was supposed to lecture on relationships. Key word supposed to. I have to take a school bus to my campus everyday. Every time the bus leaves you can either take Bus A or Bus B. Different routes that end at the same location so it doesn’t really matter which bus I take; therefore, I never pay attention to which bus I choose. I hop on the bus and sit quietly by myself mentally preparing for my talk…( not really though I probably wasn’t thinking about anything) but thats besides the point. The bus was supposed to leave at 7:30 but we hadn’t left yet and it was 7:45. I didn’t think anything of it because sometimes the bus leaves a few minutes late. My boss, Mister Chen the Head of the English Department was on the bus so I figured everything was ok. A few minutes later the bus still hadn’t left and people got on the bus with a bunch of flowers. But again, I didn’t think anything of it because people in China do odd things all of the time.
Long story shorter… The bus was not heading to the East Campus. It was heading to a funeral of one of the University faculty. Clearly (in my mind) I am not meant to be on this bus but no one bothered to say anything because (in the Chinese eye) I could very well have been going to this funeral. Even my boss didn’t say anything because I just blend right in! Chinese Funeral… I can check that one off the list 🙂 By this time it was already 8:45 and I had missed 45 minutes of my presentation time so I just took a cab home. It was my boss’s fault… he should have said something!
After my long China day I am now enjoying a glass of wine from a bottle I brought back from Italy and listening to my newly downloaded Glee songs!