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Ye Olde Chinese

travel china \ 2010-07-01

I spent the last 5 days in Tongxiang 桐乡 visiting my friend, Millie, from my trip to China 2 years. Tongxiang is only 62 km away from Shanghai, so in theory a bus would take around an hour (if one considers highway speeds here are 60-100kmh). However going anywhere dubbed "Shanghai" is like wading through molasses wearing lead weights on the Sun.

Anyways after who knows how long I actually made it there. Millie lives with her boyfriend and his parents in a very swank 2 floor apartment. The housing market in Tongxiang, while still exorbitantly priced is apparently affordable on a government official and school owner's salary. Yeah, Millie's not just a teacher, she actually owns the school she works at. Due to the dismal state of the Chinese education system (pupils hate their teachers and vice-versa), apparently most of the useful learning is done in private after-school schools. Jack, the boyfriend, is a government official who I think works on mangaging security for things. As an official, the government gives him money specifically to buy a house - hence the reason why it seems like government officials in China own 3 houses. They have nothing to do with that money but to buy houses.

A little bit more on Tongxiang. As I may have mentioned, each city/district/block has their own dialect of Chinese. This is akin to being barely able to understand anything that someone in Eagan says and someone from Duluth a wild barbarian who has bastardized your beautiful tongue. Canada and Iowa officially become foreign lands with completely different languages. Tongxiangese's most similar dialect is one spoken...about 3000 years ago. Imagine living in Colonial Williamsburg except with cars and computers. Basically vocabulary development gave Tongxiang the finger and let them chill with words and phrases that haven't been used for a few hundred years ago. For example, in Chinese to say "it's raining" one says 下雨. However, 下 is a relatively recent addition to the Chinese language, at least to mean "to go in a downward direction," thus, Tongxiangers will say 落雨, something you might see in a classical text. Another interesting example is instead of saying 洗脸 (wash your face) they will say 打面 which is literally "hit face." In classical times, to clean something you just hit it a lot. Quite the same thing one does with a face to clean it. (Editor's note 8/2013: This is all wrong. Just like, completely wrong. Hell, even the bit about Jack was wrong. Jack does marketing for cities, not security. Who let me write this? Jesus.)

In terms of what I actually did:

Yeahhhh - essentially just a lot of chillin' and walking around. Delicious food. Watching the world cup. Watched some movies. Yup yup. Now I'm back home. And the toilet is broken. and the ATM ate my bank card. Time to go try out my limited Chinese to fix a toilet and get a bank card. I don't know if I could even do the first one in English...