I’ve been in Shanghai for four days now, completely immersed in Chinese. I’m not sure how the immersion method works, but I don’t feel like I’m learning many new words. I like to compare my brain in China to a cell phone in the middle of the ocean–constantly working overdrive to find a signal, or in my case, something comprehensible. Every once in awhile I’ll pick up a weak signal, a word or phrase I understand. When this happens I get so excited I exclaim, “Hey, I understood that!” which usually blows my cover. I’ve gotten quite good at pretending to follow a conversation by looking at whoever is talking and laughing when everyone else laughs. I’m so convincing that waitresses and dinner guests will try to talk to me in Chinese. Asking Stephen “Are they talking to me?” usually blows my cover too.
Tonight I had my first official conversation in Chinese. Stephen went to the bathroom after dinner and told me to practice my Chinese with the two people we were dining with. They asked me where I was from and how long I would be in Shanghai. I was able to answer both questions with only a bit of stumbling. They have both studied English, but were too embarassed to speak it, just like me with Chinese.
The 2010 Expo is going on now in Shanghai. I bet you’ve never heard of it. I have a theory that Shanghai blew it’s entire advertising budget within China and forgot about the rest of the world. In China it’s like the Expo is the only thing going on in the world at the moment. But the rest of the world (America, at least) has no idea what it is, yet alone when and where. When I first saw the ads in Shanghai last summer I wanted to go, until I found out it involves standing in line for hours in the heat. No thanks. There’s also the bathroom issue, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.
More updates from China soon. Unless, of course, China decides to ban WordPress like they have Facebook and Twitter. I was not a happy waiguo ren when I typed in www.facebook.com and nothing came up. I might start exhibiting withdrawal symptoms soon.