Undiscovered Powers

Basic Chinese is my new superpower. I’ve been making a lot of progress with vocab and the hellish tones, and I’m starting to feel like Matt Parkman on Heroes, magically given the ability to hear what people around me are thinking, or in my case, saying. In the grand scheme of superpowers, though, perking my ears up at waiguoren isn’t the greatest power set. I’m still no Green Lantern, more like the lame supergroup sidekick who really should stay back at the secret base and not keep coming along on missions and becoming a kidnapping liability.

Superman! Professor X! Girl Who Understands Simple Sentences When Spoken At Moron Speed!

With my newfound powers, I added another 50 RMB to my Beijing transit debit card. This card makes me feel like a real BeijingRRR, evening out the bizarre combination of vacation splurge and desperate attempts at survival that is expat life in China. The card also keeps me from saying which stop I’m going to when I get on a bus, thus saving hours of my life which have previously been spent repeating words I can kinda sorta say until the bus conductor says “OH! The inteRRRsection of RRRRRR Avenue and RRRRRR StRRReet! Why didn’t you say so?”

Beijing buses really are an untapped resource for Monty Python sketches.

Anyway, I recharged my transit card, and I had a few seconds to gloat over my ability to handle basic tasks in the language of the country where I make my home, when I remembered that the other day, when we were using Stick’s transit card as unintended by the manufacturers, it met with an accident. (We were using it as lockpick, if you must know. Stick and I divide our labour so that I talk the China talk, and he does the breaking and entering.)

I showed the woman at the service desk Stick’s mutilated card, and we had a pretty long conversation, where the patient lady told me that, yes, the card is broken and yes, there is money left on it, and yes, she does have new transit cards, but I wasn’t unable to convey that I wanted the remainder of the money off the card and on a new one. Xuemei later explained that we need to call the service number, but sadly my dependence on nigga-jigga makes telephones my Kryptonite.

Check out the podcast version here!

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