Wednesday, June 30, 2010

LANGUAGE BARRIER




Certainly I expected there to be various communication difficulties while we were in China.  However, we were told by our interpreter that the reason our agency booked us in 5 star hotels was because the difference between 5 star and 4 star hotels in China was that the staff in the 5 star establishments were required to speak "very well english".  To some degree we found that to be true. Nevertheless, there turns out to be a little, and sometimes a lot of  disparity between "very well english" and actual english as you and I know it.  If for example, you ask the waitress for cold milk in a paper cup with a straw for your child, they bring you hot milk in a glass. When we asked for more napkins, we got paper bags.

We were told by our server that they did not have cold cereal in China. "Only hot, only hot", the lady said.  When we got to the actual buffet line though we found a glass canister of  Cocoa Krispies labeled "PooPoo Krispies" next to a pitcher of warm milk.  Decided against that.

As it turned out, there were quite a few labeling difficulties on the "Western" portion of the buffet. Trying to be helpful, I pointed out to the chef that the carafe that was labeled orange juice was actually pineapple juice.  He bowed to me several times in apology and returned shortly with a new label.  This time the card said "Mango Juice".  Still trying to educate, again I pointed out the mistake. This time he was visibly embarrassed and consulted with several other staffers. They began rummaging through a stack of printed labels and then all started smiling and nodding in agreement.  He ran towards me with the label held high in the air. It read "Pineapple Upside-Down Cake".  I nodded and acted as though he got it right this time. He proudly placed the card in front of the juice.  Right next to the pineapple juice was a container of apple juice, labeled of course, and I'm not kidding, "Apple Pie"!  

If you have not experienced it, I can't explain how out of sorts you feel being plopped down in another culture. Nothing is familiar, and the language barrier makes it so difficult.  I told Susan while we were there that I felt kind of like an alien on their planet. Then it occurred to me that as Christians, if we really believe what God's word tells us, we should probably feel that strange and awkward in our secular world. But, if you are like me, you don't.  We fit in all too well here don't we?  We are just like everybody else.  Because it is comfortable I think.  I'm going to have to work on that.

Anyway, Susan has officially flown out of Guangzhou and is on her way home!  26 hours and 45 minutes and counting.  I have found in her absence that it definitely takes two people to manage my life.  I am A LOT of trouble. We can not wait till she and Lily get here.  Thank you for all your prayers and calls and help.  Susan will have more pictures when she gets home, so I will post them in a few days.

Chip

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The blog can't stop.
The observations are priceless. I have recently come to believe that God teaches us without ceasing through the "everyday", but that I am generally too busy to stop and see what He is saying...you are seeing the lessons so clearly, and I love what you are sharing.

Miss PN 78

Blair said...

This one made me laugh till I cried. Pineapple upside down cake and apple pie sound like nice breakfast beverages to me—ha~!

paynecounselor said...

You are hysterical Chip! I just hope you keep this blog going and going and going. I am praying for Susan and Lily this morning. We wanted to help with Daniel this week, but I know he has been at basketball camp. But, let us know what we can do to help out when Susan and Lily get home. So looking forward to meeting the newest Cheek!

amerysouth said...

Jackson just said he can't wait till midnight cause he remembered that's when they get in tonight! Ross and I had so much fun picking out sweet girl things for Lily yesterday. Can't wait to see her when she's ready for visitors.
Amery