When living in a foreign country, it’s the little things that tend to seem important…finding (and being able to get to) a grocery store, mastering the
German washing machine, figuring out how to turn on the lights…Really, this is (these are) light switches.
The one on the left, flip it and…nothing. It’s a switch to nowhere.
The one on the right is a dimmer for the overhead lights. But for fun with the foreigners, why make the buttons go in order from dimmest to brightest? Nope. The third one is (usually) the brightest, the first is somewhere in the middle, I think the fourth is the dimmest but I swear I have to play with it every time I turn the lights on because it’s never the same twice. If I do get the right brightness on the first try, we celebrate the success. Ah, the little things.
And now I’d like to brag about a few more successes. (Ok, there’s just two).
1. I can now successfully order from Amazon China and probably get my order delivered with most, if not all, the correct items, within a day of when I think I should be getting it.
Given that we now understand the popularity of the split-crotch pant, as well as the limitations of buying big bulky items and then trying to carry them
down city streets with a couple of kids in tow, we heard that you can buy big boxes of diapers on Amazon and they will be delivered the following day. What
a lovely idea. Oh but wait, the website is all in Chinese. You can use various free translators online to view products but once you try to checkout things
get “lost in translation.” Buttons don’t work, drop down menus that are supposed to designate what neighborhood you live in go blank, etc. So George’s
assistant at work had been kind enough to place orders for us. But is this really how this poor women should be spending her time? So without boring you
with the play by play, I finally sat down with Jiang and we fumbled through together – going back and forth from viewing the webpages in English and Chinese
– and placed an order. It was kind of fun to see a confirmation email with 凯瑟琳Siddell at the top. Feeling quite proud of myself I tell George he can tell
his assistant, “thanks but my wife will now order diapers for our kids.”
Early over-confidence is always my downfall.
I get a call on the day my goods (you can get WAY more than just diapers!) are to arrive.
“Bidda bidda budda budda bah bah bah!” (Because of the use of tones in their language, the Chinese always sound overly excited/mad.)
“Sorry, no Chinese,” I say, “English?”Now I’m pretty sure that this is about my Amazon order because no one who speaks Chinese calls me. (Note: they do send
lots of texts, sometimes with pictures…see below.)
“Budda Buddha ma ma na la ta!”
“Sorry. English? No Chinese.”
Audible sighs, background yelling that I’m sure translated to something like, “don’t come to our country and expect us to know your language dumb broad!” Then a man who speaks broken English says, “Trying to deliver your order Amazon. No wrong address.”
We happened to be coming back in from the playground so I hand the phone to the lovely man that sits at the front desk in our lobby (who I know does not
speak English) but figure he can explain where we live. He says hello and they chat and laugh and laugh and chat. Then the guy at the desk starts “yelling”
at me – “ga go go ga show gow wow mao!”
A few minutes and a few guards later, I decipher that they cannot deliver not only because they had the wrong address but also because I haven’t paid yet. I know from the previous times we’ve ordered (through George’s assistant) that they accept cash on delivery and I try to explain this. Funny thing, when talking to someone who doesn’t speak your language, endlessly repeating yourself does not help.
Finally, a very kind Chinese gentlemen who is passing through the lobby interrupts and says, “may I be of assistance?” After another 10 minutes or so we
work out that the good people at Amazon China are going to fix my address in the system and if I want to pay cash on delivery, my order may be delayed by a
day or two. Fine. A good 20 minutes later and I have to disappointingly admit to George that in fact, I am not as skilled at ordering from China as I
thought. His reply? “You know I have our address written in Chinese that I can email to you, right?”
My goods finally arrived, and upon opening the door, the delivery guy gave me the kind of laugh that instantly said, “AH, so you’re the dumb broad.”
But wait…you said you were coming back from the playground…where were your kids during all this? Oh, right…the guards and random passers
by were passing them around and entertaining them. And wait, didn’t you start by saying you were able to successfully order? Right. After this initial snafu, my address is correct in the system and I have been enjoying convenient deliveries to my door ever since. And it’s almost always the same delivery guy who now calls me “Miss Kath-a-rin and gets a kick out of Hunter who likes to give him the money and a little chatter about what it is we have ordered. Diapers for poop. Milk for naps. Wine for Mommy.(for poop and naps and long days of snafus.)
2. From within a five (or so) block radius, I can now direct a taxi driver to the Mansion.
It is raining today. And I’ve been feeling like I’ve been saying, “not right now Hunter, I need to do X for Nolan,” alot lately. (Is there always going to be this constant nagging that you are giving one child more attention than the other?) So I decided Hunter and I would get out for a bit this morning. About four blocks from here is a high end mall with a fancy “food pod” (that’s the high class way of saying food court), and grocery store. Hunter likes to go see the fishies in the grocery store and I’m pretty sure hasn’t put together that the fish he likes to cook are the same fish he likes to watch swimming in their death tanks.
Yes, it’s only four blocks but it was really raining so into the taxi we went. No problems on the way there. On the way home, I showed the driver a card with our address in Chinese and a map. He studies it for a minute, then says, “Dongtai Lu?” I say, “Yes, Dongtai.” He says ok and we take off. I realize as we make our first turn that he is going the long way. We go another block and he takes a left when he should take a right. Now we are going the long, long way. Another block and he is in the lane to take another left. I say, “No, no, Dongtai” and point to the right. He looks annoyed and says he’ll have to turn around. I can’t tell if he’s annoyed because he was purposely taking a long way to increase the fare (though they don’t tip here so this seems odd) or he is annoyed I don’t speak Chinese or maybe he’s annoyed because he is hoping to kidnap us and I’ve foiled his plans. But after he turns around, I deftly tell him “you zhuan” (yo gwhy) and “zuo zhuan” (zo gwhy) when I want him to go left and right and safely direct us home narrowly avoiding a potential tunnel mishap.
Ok. So it’s only two short phrases that are pretty easy to pronounce but as the Brits say, I was quite chuffed.
Here is an example of a picture I got with a text message from some random number:
Oh and I thought this was funny…my most recent email from Amazon. This is what Google translate has come up with:
“Your order (Order No. C01-8403763-4026225), the Treasury has to arrange the shipment is expected tomorrow can be served, Please be patient, keep the phone smooth and note that check. My Account – You can also order information for the distribution company Contact directly with distribution companies to confirm the delivery time. Cause delivery delays due to weather and other reasons, we will notify you in advance. If you have received the goods, please ignore this message.”
Will be keeping the phone smooth. here in the PRC…
If I don’t get a chance to post tomorrow…Happy Thanksgiving!
I can’t believe I forgot the funniest part of my Amazon saga…when the delivery guy finally came to the door, he shows me the packing slip with the address I typed in. He points to one of the characters that is crossed out in pen. Above it someone hand wrote the correct character. He points at it and I can tell he is saying, “see, silly American, you wrote 东 instead of 路. DUH!” Oh, how we laughed.