So we’re trying to check into a hotel in Weifang. It takes all 3 of us to speak Chinese. I can understand the most, then I tell Jeff and Fresca the gist of what’s just been said. Jeff says “Oh, reservation? That’s on page 151 of the little blue phrasebook,” We look it up and then Fresca pronounces it because she can make the tones the best.
The room costs 400?. I say ok. Jeff tries to pay the clerk 400?. She says, 600?. I say, what? She says 400? today, and something something something 200?tomorrow.
I ask her how much for 1 night. She say 400?. I say ok, and try again to pay 400?. She says, 600?. I ask how much for 1 night, she says 400?.
We go a couple rounds of this when some new guests walk into the lobby. After taking a few pictures of us, the new guests ask the clerk what’s going on. She tells them. They laugh. They take another picture.
The clerk writes down what she’s saying. In Chinese. Just as a sidenote, if I could read and write Chinese, wouldn’t I have done that already? Another sidenote, even the characters I can read are only legible in print, not in the 10,000 flavors of Chinese cursive, and she’s definately not using Times New Mandarin. It’s more like one of the goofy fonts you use to make your reports seem longer. I remind myself that in this culture, my handwriting is idealized and beautiful, and try to think of a new game plan.
One of the guests decides to be helpful. “Fou hunded money!” he shouts.
*Flash!* Another hotal guest takes our photo on his way out.
I use the pencil to write down 400 and 600 and say it in Chinese. The clerk agrees with me, which means there’s no Weifang dialect in which sz and liu are homophones. She writes down 600-400 = 200. I’m pleased that we’re still in a universe where simple math works, but it doesn’t help me get a room.
“Money! Hunded! Fou!” shouts the helpful guest.
I think of the hours spent playing text-based games and I ask the clerk every variation of “What is the price for one night?”, “Is it 400? for one night?” and “How much for one night?” Each time she says “400?, I try to hand her 400?, and she says “No, 600.”
The helpful guest has now used Fou! Hunded! and Money! in every possible order, but he seems to derive great pleasure from communicating with the lao wei so he keeps going.
One of his friends stops taking pictures of us to do a little pantomime and I shout:
We pay for the room, then I leave Fresca and Jeff comatose on the beds and check out a bar down the street. While I’m there, with the good phrasebook in my pocket, the toilet overflows.