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The Hell is paved with... E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Mary Higgins
Good intentions. I went to Pizza Hut a while back. My waitress seemed like a nice, smart person. She spoke to me in her best English and I replied in kind. What pizza would you like? Pepperoni, please. What size? 12 inches. She was able to tell me that I would have my pizza in 20 minutes. So far, so good. When my pizza finally arrived, I noticed one small problem: it was a vegetarian pizza. I felt a good lesson in irrefutable logic was about to come my way.  “Excuse me, I ordered a pepperoni pizza and this is vegetarian.” “No, this is what you ordered.” “Um, it would be what I ordered if I ordered a vegetarian pizza but, fortunately for me, I ordered a pepperoni pizza.” “We don’t have pepperoni pizza so I brought you this instead.” “…. (blank stare) If you don’t have pepperoni pizza then why did you let me order it?”  “I thought this is what you wanted.”

Ducks Don't Fly in China E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Nolan Bowling
A month or so ago in class, in an attempt to help teach the word "duck" I started making flapping motions with my arms. The Chinese English teacher started chuckling. They won't understand that. She said. Why not? I asked. Because ducks can't fly. She replied matter-of-factly. After a brief discussion of weight ratios and air speed velocities, I decided to drop it for the time and continue with my lesson.

The idea stuck with me though. I used to go to the park back in America from time to time. Usually it was just to go swimming at the pool, or to take a walk with my mom, but I definitely remember ducks being at that park. Flying ducks. Why would they think that ducks can't fly? In my next lesson with another class of the same grade, I repeated the flapping motion, which was met with the same basic results. Again I was told that ducks can't fly.

Chopsticks strike back! E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Mary Higgins
There are two phrases that every single foreigner hears within minutes of arriving in China. The first is the ever ubiquitous 你的中文讲得很好 (Ni de zhongwen jiang de hen hao - Your Chinese is really good). It does not matter how badly you have just mangled the Chinese language. You might have just said “shoe shoe” (or “Thank you” in I-don’t-speak-a-lick-of-your-language-hua). If you are planning on visiting China for the first time then you should expect to hear this phrase well before you’ve even passed through customs.

The second phrase that you will undoubtedly hear is the only slightly lesser known 你的筷子用得很好 (Ni de kuaizi yong de hen hao - You use chopsticks really well.). Now, we’ve all seen foreigners in China that have never picked up chopsticks and are struggling to eat their noodles like a three year old however the reality of the situation is that people like this are few and far between. I’d say that 95% of the foreigners living/traveling in China can use chopsticks reasonably well so it really shouldn’t surprise anyone when someone picks up a pair and starts eating away. I’ve been here for years and I still hear it from people even after I’ve told them how long I have lived here. Regardless, I still get a kick when someone says it to me.

One world – one dream E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Noruma Mueller
I will never forget that song. First of all it was the song for the Olympic games 2008 and you could hear it every time every where! I was even more fortunate, because for the Christmas party of 2008 my colleagues wanted to sing this song and practiced every single day for two weeks in the meeting room behind my desk...!!

The song tells us to remember that we are one world. Now I started to think about this fact again. That was already two years ago!! Now in March 9 it was time for the next Olympic games. And they are already over. DID YOU NOTICE SOMETHING ABOUT THAT???  In my former life (that is before I came to live in Xi'an), I used to go to some nice places during my holidays and I would disconnect a bit from the world. I would not watch TV or hear the radio, and every time when I came back home I would be surprised either by the fact that so much had happened in the world or by the fact that everything pretty much was the same as before. Anyway, watching the news was part of my daily life, of my routine. And my holidays were the time to forget and not to care about news.

How to cover your a... E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Mary Higgins
The last thing you ever ever ever ever ever want to do is to directly answer a person’s question. The moment you give an answer is the exact moment that you become responsible for every possible infinite action that occurs as a result of your response. Did you say the meeting was at 2pm when it has been moved to 2:30pm? Well, now you’re responsible for all of the pain and suffering in the world. Did you give someone the wrong directions to the museum? Well, now you can be linked to a string of serial murders in Nebraska that are going to take place in the summer of 2127.

But what are you to do? You can’t just stand there with a dumb look on your face while someone is waiting for an answer to a question for which you are responsible. At the same time, you can’t tell the person that you don’t know and therefore look like a useless idiot. How can you be reasonably confident that you will provide an answer to their question without giving any information whatsoever? The answer, my friends, is to grant your questioner Full Discovery.

Tah boo chur! E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Mary Higgins
I was at dinner the other night with a bunch of friends, mostly new ones. Usually being the only “token white guy” in the crowd, I had competition that night. Another Whinese was at the table. He’d been in China for 1 year and early on started working up the crowd with his ‘Woe shur May Gwow Ren” this and “Woe ai shuay shee Hahn you” that. He conveniently ignored me as he performed, stealing a glance every now and again to ensure he would not be challenged as Alpha-Whinese.

In retrospect, I suppose I should have stopped his posturing earlier. I didn’t have the energy to trump him. I guess I could have uttered a few syllables. I could have even thrown down with archaic quotations like 道可道非常道. But I let him play his cards. This was a mistake. By the time dinner came, he was the belle of the ball, the grandmaster funk, the proud recipient of oohs and aahs.

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