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An Inquiring Mind

I don’t know how much you know about the Chinese, but when it comes to conversations, no topic is off limits, from asking a perfect stranger how much money he makes to telling them how to raise their kid.

Having left this country over 40 years ago, the little Chinaman that has lived dormant in my dad has missed  the chance to openly ask whatever the heck he wants, and he’s been at it ever since we came to the motherland (ML).

Being able to understand Chinese, something that could be considered an advantage, has actually left me mortified at some (most) of the conversations my dad has had with people.  And translating some of the stuff that’s being said to Diesel has left him not only equally mortified, but also  feeling the need to randomly interrupt my dad to ensure that his conversations are socially acceptable…in the Western world, that is.My dad’s shameless quest for the truth and nothing but the truth started when we climbed up the Three Pagodas in Dali.  It was an arduous trip to the top with literally hundreds of steps to be conquered.  When we were ¾ of the way up, he saw an old lady with her husband who were doing a pretty good job at keeping up with us.

“OLD LADY,” he screamed from afar “How old are you?”

Mortification.

The lady was 81.  When I confronted my dad about how rude he had been, he scoffed and said he was simply complimenting (indirectly, I guess) the grandma on her good health by asking her how old she was.

Another thing that happens quite often is his interrogation of cab drivers.  He’s got his little spiel all down.  He always sits in the front and spits out the following questions (in this order):

1)  Are you a minority?
A)  if “no,” assure the driver that the one-child policy is good because “there are too many Chinese     people in this world already” and move on to question 2
B)  if “yes,” ask “what minority group” and move on to the following questions:
Are you exempt from the one-child policy?  If so, do you have a lot of children who help out on     the farm?  How old are they?  If they are college age, are you able to pay for their university and     what are they studying?
Because you are a minority, do you  get any government subsidies or discounts on one or all of the     following:  food, electronics, household appliances or housing?
C)  In addition, if  they answered question 1B with a “Yes” and identified themselves as Tibetan,     Dad moves on to ask what other sort of government support or exemptions they get such as    land.  This is asked because, after all, the Tibetan are treated really well by the government, who     is trying to appease them in the hopes of avoiding any uprisings

2)  How much money to do you make?  How much money do you actually keep when you charge me 20 yuan?

3)  How old is this car?  (if the car is old, this question will be preceded by:  “What an old car you have!”)  How much does it cost?

4)  This is followed by a series of questions specific to wherever we are such as what is the name of the road, is it newly built, what is this on the left, etc.

5) And before we leave the taxi (sometimes amused, but mostly mortified) leaving behind another social casualty, my dad, who in the States likes to tell us about how things are in China, concludes with an “In America…” statement, which can range from “In America, people don’t throw trash out of their window (like the taxi driver had just done) to “In America, people don’t run red lights (like the taxi driver had just done.”

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One Response

  1. FINALLY you guys are back online! I’m now unemployed for a little bit and need a steady stream of your tales from abroad. Thanks for the multiple posts today to make up for a few weeks of nada WIC (while in China) and the laughs in this most recent one almost made up for what I’ll refer to as The Lost Weeks (for us, your followers) while you were behind The Chinese Firewall.

    Your WA people miss you!

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