Posted by: Nena Cavel | March 6, 2009

Making Chinese Friends

I’m still recovering from a cold I had over the weekend; I’m sure the pollution isn’t helping matters. I read somewhere that the Chinese consider it very rude to blow your nose in public. I think that is very strange, considering they don’t think its rude to spit, pee or vomit in public.

Anyway, this week has been a good week. Today a professor asked me if I would like a Chinese language partner. I said ‘of course’; improving my language skills is the whole reason I’m here. I met her during the break and she seemed very nice; her name is Yue Xian (Chinese people place the last name first, so her first name is Xian, but her English name is Bonnie) she’s a graduate student studying economics here. She asked for my phone number but I told her that I don’t have a cell phone here in China. She called a friend of hers to take me to the electronics store and buy a cell phone. Her friend spoke a little English and mostly seemed excited to meet me. She told that she told her roommates, all four of them, that she was going to go meet an American. I’m still getting used to being sort of famous around here. As a short white girl with brown hair, I just have no experience sticking out in a crowd. But I stick out here! It sort of puts the pressure on; if you know people are looking at you wan to look your best or else they might walk away thinking ‘ah, all Americans have frizzy hair’. But I’m sure they have good intentions. Also, there is a lot more contact between people of the same gender here. Especially with girls, the hold hands walking down the street and touch each other’s hair.

I bought the cheapest cell phone available, at 299 kuai or about $45. I’m only going to be in China until July 15; plus, I’m not a big cell phone user anyway so why spend the money? I’m glad a native speaker was there to navigate the intricacies of buying a cell phone and a cell phone plan. This was a pretty nice electronics store but the payment procedure was a little strange. You picked out your item at a display counter and the service lady presented you with a piece of paper to bring to the payment counter; you then brought your receipt from the cashier pack to the display counter to pick up your item. I wonder if that was some sort of vestigial procedure from the Communist era? Oh, and my language partner is also a card-carrying Communist. Literally, she told me that she is a member of the Chinese Communist Party. But she also said that most people just join because of the job opportunities and that nobody actually believes in Marxism anymore.

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