Immersion Chinese

We may have a new Juice Aunt in Beijing. Juice Aunt is the woman who sold bottled drinks outside my apartment in Yantai. She and various members of her family would be outside my house with their cart, all day, every day, which left Juice Aunt with lots of time to help me with my Chinese. It was a slow process, since she doesn’t speak any English, but she was very patient with my “What do you call this? And this? And this?”

Her first claim to fame is yelling at me for spending too much money on water. I would buy a few bottles of water from Juice Aunt every night as I came home. Tap water isn’t drinkable, so I’d get a bottle to drink and a bottle to make the morning’s coffee. One day, Juice Aunt scolded me for spending so much money on little bottles when I could go to the supermarket and get one of those giant Poland Spring jugs!

The second time Juice Aunt scolded me was when Stick came to visit. She saw him leaving my apartment with me in the morning, and I got such an earful! I could only understand one word per sentence, but she made it pretty clear she did NOT approve of men spending the night! I told her he was my husband visiting from America, and she stopped scolding me.

Anyway, we found a little street market just outside the complex. I think our living situation is ideal. Our complex is really clean (I swear I am going to post pictures soon). Our neighbors are a little higher-class, a little more educated, so there’s no staring like we’re zoo animals and no bellowing “HULLOR!” as we walk to school or to the little market inside the neighborhood. Also, did I mention the clean? Can’t overestimate the importance of clean.

Outside the super-clean neighborhood is real China. There’s a street market, with one of those noodles-on-a-folding-table restaurants, a strange little toy store, the popcorn stand, all kinds of fruit vendors, sometimes a wandering pancake man, and a woman selling DVDs from a suitcase. She’s got a good selection of English TV shows and she’s extremely patient with my bad Chinese. The other night, she taught us some new words, and enlightened me a little on the great mystery of when to use le. (Completed actions, right? And, um, random other times?)

The English-language TV shows are great for making the apartment into a little American haven, and when we finish the first season of Heroes, it’ll be time to learn some new Chinese words.

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