August 12th: Observations of a Returning Brit

Our house shakes.  Randomly.  Sometimes no shakes for hours; on occasion, several second-long rumblings within a few minutes of each other.  Sufficiently subtle as to not interfere with anything in particular, but noticeable enough to question whether geologists have missed the tiniest of shifting tectonic plates beneath Shanghai.   No trains pass underneath the house (Metro lines 1 and 10 one kilometre to the South, Metro line 7 one kilometre to the North), and no planes seem to pass above us.   It’s a bit of a mystery, but something we should probably remember to point out to any future visitors.

One motivating factor for learning to speak Mandarin is the sheer frustration of not being able to partake in any meaningful conversations with anyone local (other than in English that is).   Back in the UK, certain elements of the press rancorously berate newcomers to Britain who can’t speak English (and in some cases, revel in delight when non English-speakers are refused entry).   It’s worthwhile considering this from the opposite perspective; Shanghai has many foreign immigrants, ex-pats and visitors who cannot speak a word of Mandarin.  The locals expect this; Westerners who can converse in the local language are seemingly very rare (and this is spoken language only – reading and writing in Chinese would take even longer to master).  Were it not for signs and public transport announcements in both Chinese and English, Shanghai would be nigh-on impossible to navigate.  We’ll continue to study Mandarin but it’s unlikely we’ll reach a point of any real proficiency before our time in Shanghai reaches its end.

Things the Chinese have in common with Americans (an occasional series), parts 1 and 2.

  1. Both follow a strange version of English*
  2. Both like to do their business into a plunge pool.  What is it with half-filling the toilet with water?

We’ve been back for two days now.  Other than eating in a Thai restaurant which turned out not to be Thai and me losing 3-1 to Bronwen at pool, we haven’t done a great deal.  Being back is a little odd; I suspect things will be back to normal once the Olympics is over and done with.

* Americans have an international hold on English which causes confusion to both my Chinese keyboard and my spellchecker.

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