Saturday, April 26, 2008

lost in translation

I know that poking fun at chinese interpretations of english is a pretty cheap shot, but I feel like these two should be exempt.

this is from the menu of one of Guilin airport's chinese restaurants -- this isn't exactly a small regional airport, you can fly direct here from London. I wonder what 'sliced meat cloud' is?

and this is a wet towelette that Air China gave me after my meal -- Air China is part of the star alliance that also includes United, Lufthansa, etc., so it's not like they don't have contact with the western world. but perhaps they don't have much contact with middle eastern patrons?

obviously, someone smoked up and then watched 'bubble boy'

Zorbing is all the rage in Manali, for obvious reasons.

I mean, who wouldn't want to be shoved into a big plastic ball with an opening that is eerily reminiscent of an anus?

and then get strapped in and rolled down a hill, with 3 indian guys running alongside you "in case anything goes wrong."

I just feel bad for this poor guy, who has to slog up that hill only to . . .run our muddy shoes down.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

next time, I'll try "ladies room"

I've been pretty lazy about blogging lately, for a couple of reasons -- 1) toward the end of my stay in india, I was starting to get a little stir crazy, so I sort of shut down for a bit, and 2) once I left india and arrived in hong kong, I was too busy lapping up western amenities and culture to think about writing. I'll have to backtrack at some point so I can finish my thoughts on india, but meanwhile I'll write a little about my experiences so far in china. if you've been following my blog, you can probably guess what this will be about. yup, toilets.

so I've been on the chinese mainland for about 4 days now, and I grossly underestimated how necessary a working knowledge of mandarin is. today, I went cycling in the countryside with 2 friends, Sara and Cameron, and at one point I needed to find a bathroom. I walked over to a little chinese roadside eatery and asked if there was a toilet. she obviously didn't understand. here's the rest of the, uh, conversation --

me: toilet . . .uh, bathroom?
woman: (looks at me blankly)
me: [thinks to self, shit, how do I gesture this?] uh okay. toilet? [mimes squatting down on toilet, on pavement in front of passing bicyclists and nearby farmers]
woman: (smiles, says something in chinese, but still doesn't understand)
me: [thinks to self, fuck, what else can I do?] uh . . .okay. you know eating? [mimes shovelling food into mouth] then finish? [mimes rubbing belly with peaceful look on face] then toilet? [mimes squatting on toilet again, this time to the amusement of a passing tractor]
woman: (smiles, says in chinese, obviously has no idea what I am doing)

at this point, I give up and walk back to Sara in defeat. Sara speaks some mandarin so says she will try to talk to the woman. she comes back laughing -- apparently if I had just asked for the w.c., the woman would have understood. I come back to the eatery shyly, and meanwhile all the chinese staff are in hysterics because they finally understand what all my pantomiming meant. folks, the lesson of the story is this: exhaust every single word you know for 'toilet' before you start trying to act it out.