Here I am in Dalian, China, an area which I hardly know. I want to be open and excited about new experiences in a city not as documented as Beijing on the internet, but I can’t help but feeling helpless in many ways. I have one friend here (coworker),..my wireless router isn’t working properly..i haven’t found a bus schedule or foreigner friendly map…and the worst thing is that I have the chinese language level of a preschooler. Heck I can’t even write my own name yet!
The other day I went to the Bank of China to exchange my weakening dollar for chinese currency (RMB) which seems to be strengthening every day! There was only one other customer handling a transaction with a teller, so I stood behind awaiting my turn. Some other folks trickled in behind me so I was glad I had gotten there early. The first customer stood up and this lady jumps in front of me and talks to the teller before I could say anything! Ok, I’m in China, I have to remember that initiative is important, especially when waiting in lines. I’ll keep cool. The lady leaves and I make my way to the front and another lady cuts me off! My mind starts going berserk because I really wanted to say something this time but didn’t know how. I finally came up with my best sentence “bu shi yao pai dui ma?” which was my rough way of saying “you don’t need to stand in line?” There was not a flinch or acknowledgement from the lady that I had said anything; it felt as though I was invisible and mute yet I could feel other people boring a hole through my skull with their stares. I shook my head in disgust and laughed it off filling my head with snide remarks I would’ve wanted to say.
The moment the lady gathered her papers I observed another guy making his move so I quickly put my documents in front of the teller. Triumph!? …NOT! The teller tried telling me something I painfully couldn’t understand and the next customer was so kind to show me what I had been missing. He led me to this machine where you get a ticket to wait in line for your turn to be called. It dawned on me that there was in fact a well established system which beat the heck out of waiting in line. All of my bitter thoughts transformed into red pigments that sunk down to my face.
After some thought, I decided that more of these incidents would happen. I thought I came prepared to be a student of the culture to learn the nuances of living in a foreign land. But I feel that I will inevitably run into countless learning experiences which I want to record on this blog. My goal in China is to learn from the people and culture. And if I’m fortunate enough, I will have something for them to learn from as well.