Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Broken Stuff

February 16th.

Pavan had to stay at home in the morning to monitor the cleaner so I went out to get a cab alone. It was snowing. After waiting for a considerable period in the snow, dodging one scooter that turned past and crashed, and watching tons of occupied cabs go by finally a cab with the available light on and no passengers appeared in the distance. As it closed through the snow and traffic I waved, the taxi driver made affirmative gestures, and suddenly the world seemed a little brighter. Then, quite literally three feet from where I waited, the taxi driver endeavored to stop when the van in front of him braked, failed, and slammed into the back of the van very slowly!! The damage was pretty immaterial but even so both drivers felt the need to get out and yell at one another in Mandarin in the snow and the traffic. Figuring it was a lost cause, I started walking. After turning south-west and heading around the back of our building complex I actually passed a taxi stuck in traffic in the snow, glanced back at it, and realized it was empty. Happy (at least warmer) days were here! It generally seems much more effective to just start walking than to wait out front of our building in inclement weather. -- Rod.

Our home internet was still down so Pavan was behind a few hours work when she reached the Active office around noon. We decided to stay late to make up for it. At 1pm Rod had a one hour language lesson with Crystal Tan, focusing mainly on pronouncing our existing vocabulary correctly. If nothing else it became apparent the tone really does matter. It was quite fun. We are going to try to do ~1hr/day and have lined up five teachers in Xi'an to work with. The idea is they get to talk in English with us about our Mandarin so we both learn something.

For dinner we took a break and walked over to Nan Yao Tou alone. We endeavored unsuccessfully to say we wanted the buckwheat noodles but all we managed was to make the lady look confused. Since we knew the restaurant served buckwheat noodles as their specialty Rod resorted to pointing at an item on the menu and holding up two fingers. This worked out; we wound up with two bowls of probably-beef and buckwheat noodles. These were very good. The Nan Yao Tou restaurant was totally unheated so it was a strange mix of hot food and quite cold environment. During the meal we watched TV. A Korean and Austrian were playing rather high level ping pong with a huge crowd watching; it was quite entertaining.

After a bit more work we got into a cab and said our home address. This had failed to work several times before but this time it worked! It seemed like the driver recognized our mispronunciation of the building complex name so all the rest of it (what streets, etc) was probably irrelevant as he knew exactly where the buildings were. Still cool.

When we got home we went through the gate, went to the bottom of our building, and discovered our cards no longer opened the building. After going back to the guard in front of the complex, asking in English and getting confusing sign language in response, we finally recruited some other residents who had some English. They came back to the building with us and confirmed it was broken. Luckily they knew the secret code (0000) to dial building maintenance and the secret language (Mandarin) to use to ask for the door to be opened so we got in again.

Once into the building we found the internet was now on, but nothing except Google sites seems to load. Lol.

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