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This is the Chinglish translation for Information Booth (Is this an example of situational irony? Castle? Anyone? )

You are the new man.How delicious can not forget,special taste,return the true flavor-Give you the minerable feeling.

I wanted to start this entry off with a quote we got on our sesame coated walnuts we bought in Taishan. They love putting these english phrases on the packages of things, but they don't love writing in english what the product actually is. I guess the Chinese figure that Americans will buy anything as long as it has good advertising.

And here is another element of culture whip lash:


(meat drying in Ivy's window)

After we woke up Ivy had already left for work so she left a China cell phone and a note in front of our door that told us in english how to reload the phone with minutes, and in Chinese so we could just and the paper to the shop and they could figure it out from there. Her brother was still sleeping b/c he works late shift, so Joe and I left the apartment as quietly as we could and headed for the train station ticket office. Ironically, the ticket office is located at the corner of the street where I took the pictures of Linda's apartment complex. On the way back to Linda's place, just outside of the entrance to Ivy's apartment complex, we stopped to watch a woman attempting to plant her orange trees in the only available dirt space she could find.


This is their garbage dump. These are common in China. Its the place they dump all the garbage that is then picked up at a later time by a larger truck heading to a landfill somewhere. But that is just our own speculation, we haven't had the rudeness to ask Ivy why there is a large pile of garbage at the entrance to her apartment complex.

The nice thing was while we were taking pictures I was checking my bag to make sure I had the papers Ivy printed out for us last night with all the train information written in Chinese. I couldn't find them, and realized that they must still be in her apartment. So we had to go back upstairs and knock on her door, hoping to only wake up the pregnant lady (we suck). No one answered. We waited 5 min. and knocked again, this time Joe used the shave and a hair cut. I told him that the Chinese probably didn't know that one, but he said that maybe then Ivy's sister in law would answer the door b/c she would know it was the Americans knocking. Now we were checking my watch and calculating how long it should be before Ivy would make it back from work, and then her sister in law answered the door. In perfect (-ly bad) sign language we explained to her that we just needed to get some things and we would be heading back out. She seemed to understand, and so we left it at that.

The ticket office went really smoothly b/c we had everything we wanted printed out in chinese, so all we had to do was hand them the slip of paper, and they did the rest. We ended up not having enough money, but there was an ATM across the street. So I ran and got some extra cash and made it back to the office before they even printed the tickets (very smooth). Then we went to Linda's place (which was also across the street) to get our toothbrush and toothpaste we had forgotten there. Linda was in the middle of a facial, and Jason was getting his lesson plans ready for the private English classes he was giving to 2 rambunctious kids (and for anyone who thinks that Chinese kids are really well behaved, you've only met ABC's. Most of the children we see in China are left to do pretty much anything they like, and they act like the boundless, ruleless, spoiled by being mostly brought up by their grandparents, kids that they are).

But Jason was ready for a break, and our train didn't leave until evening, so we went back to DaFen to the same restaurant for lunch outside on the patio in the square with the bust of Da Vinci. Jason and Joe wanted to order the meat soup, and Joe wanted this plate of meat, and that was all fine with me as long as I got my stir-fried/ glazed/ spicy chilly coated green beans. After lunch Jason headed back upstairs for his teaching and Joe and I spent a few hours walking around DaFen.


Then we headed back to Linda's b/c she wanted to do some personal training with Joe before we left, and she could use some help on the computer. Her friend who we met last night at the dancing square was supposed to come and help her, but he wasn't available just yet. He is another foreigner like Linda, living for extended periods of time in China (he's from New Zealand and lives in Shanghai, but is visiting Shinjin), and they don't know hardly any Chinese. But I guess that Shanghai has a lot of english speakers because it is a big business city, so he gets by. She was glad to have me help her instead b/c when he comes over she always has to hide the toilet paper (Chinese toilets can't take more than 2 to 4 squares of paper at a time or they'll get stopped up, and I guess her friend from New Zealand lives in a Western style apartment that can, so he always stops up her pluming when he comes over).

So I taught her how to take screen shots of children's books off the internet and set them up in word so she can save them and print them out to the size she wants (for teaching ESL). And Joe took her aside and gave her about an hours worth of personal training to help her regain her figure after the surgery. She isn't allowed to do any sit-ups or heavy lifting so he had to give her a lot of outside the box techniques to get her exercising and strong again without injuring her post op. I didn't get to see most of the training, but I did hear her say "Oh, yes, thats a good one" a lot, so he must have been doing something right. At the very end I watched him teach her the "butt" exercise as I call it, and Joe called it "the move that gave Rain a really fantastic ass" as he motioned with his hands the exaggerated curvature of my you know what. I was shocked, literally shocked. Moth wide open, eyebrows in the middle of my forehead, mind like a blank slate, shocked. Linda broke the silence with a "well alright then, lets see this magical move!" Joe gave his nervous laugh that said he had done something wrong and he knew it, and that he was pretty sure that he was going to get away with it too, and then hooked her exercise band to the foot of her sofa and showed her how to hook it to her foot, and then lift her leg up using her glutes.

But now it was time to start wrapping things up in Shinjin, so Jason took us to the mysterious KFC that was supposedly so easy to find when Linda gave us directions to her place. The sign was right in front of the entrance to her apartment complex, so if we had walked down the street a couple hundred feet further that first night we may have found it, but the KFC was actually located about 5 blocks down the road from Linda's. So we sat down after ordering what we wanted by pointing at the pretty pictures, and we ate our first real American food and attempted to explain to Jason that we do not dip our cookies in gravy. This KFC, much like the ones in England, didn't have any biscuits, so trying to explain to Jason what one was to an American was harder than trying to tell Ivy what Sweet and Sour Chicken was. "You know, its chicken, but not long and thready chicken, its all ground up, and its not tan, its all white, and its inside a ball of deep fried bread, and it has a really sweet... candy... hot pink syrup... gewy liquid stuff..." you get the picture, its ruff, and all this time we thought we got it from their country (there is no Sweet and Sour Chicken in China, and the English don't know what biscuits are).

Joe and I both ended up getting food poising. We decided to shy away from KFC, American food is so questionable :)

Then it was time to get our stuff from Ivy's and head to the buss to take us to the train station to take us to Guangzhou to take us to the other train that we would spend the night on heading to Tai'an, the city at the bast of the Taishan Mountain (wich is like saying Chai tea... chai means tea in Hindi, and shan means mountain in Chinese).

At Ivy's her sister in law gave me some form of Chinese little debbie cake, and then she got her son to quickly run up to Joe, hand him the package, and then run back behind the table and watch him with eager excitement. Then Joe tried to tell his mom that we didn't need 2 cakes, and that we would split one. So she took back his cake and put it back inside the big bag on the table. I placed mine in my shoe while I ran to our room to pack our things (in China everyone takes off their shoes when you enter a house, but they all then put on flip flops or slippers, and they always have extra ones for when guests come over b/c most floors are all tile and its not too comfortable to walk around on cold tile all day in just your socks). But when I got back the cake was gone. Oh well, it looked radioactive orange anyways. Joe was a little distraught by this discovery when we were leaving, and he was thinking about asking for another. I pleaded for him not to. The little boy seemed to know what we were talking about though, so to make up for taking our cake back, he dumped all the cakes onto the table and gave Joe the main package. "Shae Shae" he told the kid, and then secretly handed the bag back to his mom as we were about to leave. "Okay, final check, do we have the tickets? Check. Cell phone? Check. Passports?" Where were the passports? I start to freak out a little, no, change that, make it a lot. Then Joe says he remembers that he put the secret pouch on the hanging rack in Linda's bathroom. He ran. I stayed at Ivy's place with all our stuff and continued to freak out. When Joe got back he held up the bag with our passports and I almost cried again. But we didn't have time, we needed to get on the bus about 10 min. ago now.

Waiting at the bus station half way between Ivy's and Linda's we realized that if we didn't get a taxi that we would miss our train to Guangzhou, which would be a huge loss, but then that would make us miss the train to Tai'an which cost over 10 times as much as the first train. Thankfully the Chinese are really big into taxis, so we got one in less than a minute. Joe told the driver "train we go to" in Chinese, and the driver seemed satisfied with the destination, and we hoped he knew what Joe was talking about. We drove for about 30 minutes through Shinjin on the highways (which are actually above ground level in many cases), and made it to the station with little time to spare. I saw the exit for the train station on a sign 2 exits before the one he took, and I protested in English to him that he was going the long way around. I don't think he expected us to be able to read the Chinese signs, and for the most part he would be right, but in this case he miscalculated and almost cost us both our train tickets.

When we got out of the taxi I thought the guy waiting to prey on the car was going to take the taxi after we got out, so I left the door open and walked to the front to pay the driver. But instead of going into the back seat he started leaning over me and tapping me on the shoulder. I turned around to his face right in mine. Then he moved back a bit to allow his hand to push between our faces. My first Chinese beggar. I didn't see it coming because we had done quite a bit of walking around in this huge town filled with what appear to be poverty stricken people, but we never saw a single homeless person or anyone with pots asking for change. Nervous, I paid the driver and tried to hide where I was placing my change while the driver shouted at the guy to get the hell away from me! The guy pretended not to know that the man was speaking to him, but then the driver got even angrier and moved his upper body into the passenger's seat and almost out the window to tell the guy to buzz off. While the two argued Joe and I made a run for it (and we were moving fast b/c we were late). Inside the huge train station that reminded me of a mix between a Toronto mall and the DC subway, we got very lost. But since we are white and look completely helpless we got many people to come up to us, look at our tickets, and then point us in the right direction.

At the actual entrance to our particular train was a waiting area and a ramp. We walked into the waiting area, found the dead end, panicked, looked like 2 lost white people, and a guy came up to us and asked us if we were on the Train to Tai'an (I understood b/c he spoke english). "Follow me!" he told us and we went with him up the ramp. Then the bus was right there and he pointed to car number 8 and said "You are car 8." We understood, and we found our seats all by ourselves. 2 guys were sitting in our seats, but when we got there and looked confused they just got up and went to the back of the car. We discovered that they sell tickets to trains even if there are no seats left, so people who don't get seat numbers have to stand. This was a 2 hour train ride, so anyone without a seat grabbed up the open ones hoping that the people who bought the seats never show, but they don't put up a fuss if they do.

When we were getting nearer to our stop Joe started trying to ask the stewardesses where we go to get to our next train. This was a question that couldn't be answered by someone who didn't speak the same language. So we got lucky again and someone heard Joe struggling and stepped in to help. He figured out very quickly that we bought a train to the wrong station! We handed the ticket officer the paper that said very plainly which train we wanted and to which destination we wanted to get off on, and he blew it. We were going to Guangzhou East station, and our train for Tai'an was leaving out of the Guangzhou station. Then he told us that we would have to take the subway to get to the other train station, and that we would have to make 2 transfers, and that it could be a little confusing for someone who doesn't know Chinese and has never used the Guangzhou subway before. Great. But it actually was, because this guy said that he was getting off at the same stop as us, and that he would ride the subway with us to the Guangzhou train station! He said he was taking the subway to the opposite side of the city, but that he had time to spare and as long as he didn't leave the subway he could transfer as many times as he likes on the same token, just as long as he gets off the train at the stop he bought the token for. It felt like a mix of Washington DC and Toronto's subway systems, and it could quite possibly better than both for economic fairness and simplicity (this is a first for my opinion of Chinas policies).

When we were really closing in on our stop Joe started getting jumpy "Hurry UP!" he yelled at me as he started dashing up the train cars. He wanted to make sure we got to that guys train before he got off just in case we can't find each other or he forgets about us. I raced after him, and we made it just in time. The three of us power walked through the train stations shopping mall and came to the subway token machines. "Wait!" Joe stopped in mid stride and tuned to me and asked, "Were are my shoes?!" "They are on the train now, no time!" I told him as I grabbed him by the arm and raced back after Billy who was starting to get lost in the sea of people. We had just bought him new shoes for China in Hawaii which were the exact same waterproof hiking shoes he had all trip, and now, not even a week into being in China, this kid is back to crocks and socks.

The subway machines had a touch screen option for english, but we just left it in Chinese and let Billy work the controls. I gave him the change he needed, and then he quickly inputted everything we needed like Tom Cruse in Minority Report, and then 2 little green tokens dropped into the tray. Billy went through all the steps again and received 1 yellow token, and we were ready to go. Billy taught me how to read the metro signs b/c he saw that I could understand some Chinese characters, and it was so easy once I knew what to look for. Now we can mix in the London Tube with Toronto's subway and DC's metro and you can taste this bit of China. On the wall there is a drawing with the different colored subway lines and little white balls on the different stops. Regular stops have black outlining, but transfer stations have thick blue outlining. Then above each door on the subway is a light-up map that shows the line you are currently on. Each stop has its own light, and the stops we've passed have red lights, the stop we are going to has a green light, and the stops we haven't been to yet are dark.

Billy had written down the Chinese characters for the stops we needed to get off at to transfer subways and our final destination, so I could have handled it from there, but he still stayed with us just in case since we didn't have much time before our train left (and I was still grateful). We had to run up a flight of stairs to get to the line 2 level of the subway and get on the yellow line heading west, so that was a little confusing, but I agreed with the train we picked after recognizing the stop for the Guanzhou train station (see, told you I could do it). Then Billy came with us all the way to the exit of the subway and pointed us to the sign that said train station and repeated for us not to leave the building b/c the train station shared the building with the subway. We had it under control.

Then we got on the sleeper car train, wondered around the outside of the train looking through the compartments (the soft bed compartments only have 2 bunk beds in them and they looked so nice), then finally found the one we were in (3 beds on each wall, so 6 per compartment). We walked into our car and found our compartment, and then showed the mom in our compartment our ticket. She pointed to the top bunk for me, and it seemed like she pointed to the middle bunk for Joe, so we started putting our stuff on our beds and she protested that Joe was also the top bunk. Cool. I liked being across from Joe b/c there was only about a foot between the bunks, and it would be strange sleeping right next to another person like that. It kinda sucked that we were on top though b/c the space between beds got smaller as you got closer to the ceiling. So while you could sit up on the bottom bunk with some head space, and sit up on the middle bunk if you slouched, you could barley prop yourself up on your elbows on the top bunk before you hit ceiling. The window stopped to just beneath the top bunk, so I really was having a small tingling of claustrophobia going on. Joe got our bags up on the luggage racks across from our bunks and I placed all our valuables in the corner of my bed next to my feet. There was no corner where my head was like you see in the trains on Harry Potter. The train just had separators between the beds sharing walls, and then less than a foot of isle space between the beds and tables under the other far window. The tables had 2 fold out seats each, so the other 4 people in that space had to stay in their bed if 2 people were using the table.


This was going to be a 22 hour ride over night, so I stayed up and read Steven King's Gunslinger novel for the first hour of the ride, but when 10pm came around it was lights out, and it was just as well b/c sleeping made me forget that I was trapped in a small space for a very long time.

Posted by - Rain 08:17

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wow! i am really proud of you guys that you made it to the right train! this is hard enough in England, where you speak the language, and in Italy or France where at least the alphabet is the same and you can decipher some words, but a whole different alphabet - wow! next time though, leave earlier and save yourselves a little anxiety! good job!

by georgi r

The story of Billy makes me think, not for the first time, that the subtitle of your blog ought to include "the kindness of strangers" (in your case the phrase doesn't even have to have the irony of Tennessee Williams). Everywhere you go you seem to attract incredibly helpful people.

by Sheryl S

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