Victory at the Grocery Store

Today I went to the grocery store, passing by the many “Christmas Merry” signs still posted on shop doors in March. As I puzzled over what kind of noodles to buy and hoped for a package with instructions I could begin to understand, I noticed a lady talking to me without really looking, vigorously shaking a bag of noodles. Now this happens all the time, as people are usually looking at Leo and trying to make him smile, but something about her was different. My first thought was, “Oh, it’s a poor crazy lady,” and I said, “Duibuqi.” (“Sorry” or “Excuse me.”) A moment later, when she addressed me again, I paused, because I realized that a) she was blind and b) I actually understood what she was saying. The latter hardly ever happens, as accents vary and people usually have to slow their Chinese down to a Southern pace for me to get the jist. I regretted my earlier thoughts of insanity and began to answer her questions. She didn’t know (since she couldn’t see me) that I wasn’t Chinese, although that became clear when I opened my mouth to tell her how much her noodles cost and what kind she had in her hand. Nonetheless, she understood me and further asked me to help her find bags of noodles that weren’t broken up. It was a victorious moment for me. After four weeks of many interactions where I’m not so sure what was said or what I just said, I had a clear (if short) conversation, and I was able to help someone here.

~Liz

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6 Responses to “Victory at the Grocery Store”


  1. 1 asimplesinner March 12, 2008 at 6:06 am

    That is a true victory!

    I felt similar once in high school, when I was able to carry on a 5 minute conversation auf Deutsch with a real live set of Germans…

    Granted they were five year old twins…

    Nevertheless, victory!

  2. 2 Mom March 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Could hardly take my eyes off that happy baby. He must be so much fun these days. Looks like Chinese food agrees with JM, as if we didn’t know. Does Liz have the brightest coat in Nanjing? Should be helpful if you get separated in crowds.
    Sounds like you’re right on schedule or even ahead in adjusting to your new way of life.

  3. 3 Julie Anderson March 12, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Liz, I am so impressed!! Way to go! What an amazing moment of enculturation! You guys are really doing this…it’s just so mind blowing. The pictures are great…although the chicken is, uh, a little too close to chicken?! We talk about you guys all the time and check the blog daily. Can’t wait until a time when we catch up!!

  4. 4 Dana March 14, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Congrats! Isn’t that the best feeling? When I was in Israel, I remember the first time that I walked into a store and had an entire conversation in Hebrew.

    The difference there is that so many people know English that they start speaking it as soon as they detect an accent. So my first Hebrew conversation was a breakthrough because I actually had to speak well enough to overcome the snob factor.

  5. 5 Becca March 15, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Ok. When I was in Austria I went into the Spar and was sooooo nervous. And my whole conversation went like this: (excuse the lack of German charachters. I will have to write it phonically)

    Me: Groos Gott
    Nice Spar Lady: Groos Gott
    Me:Entschuldigen. Sprechen Sie Englisch?
    Nice Spar Lady: Little
    Me: Sauerkraut?
    Nice Spar Lady: (Walks me over to the sauerkraut, smiles and points to it.)
    Me: Ahh Dankeschön! (Looky there! When you cut and paste from the online dictionary…you get real live charachters!)
    Nice Spar Lady: (Looking very relieved). Dankeschön!

  6. 6 stephanie falk April 9, 2008 at 3:50 am

    Sounds like you are having an adventure that is for sure, we miss you!


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