Wednesday, April 29, 2009

He Yelled at Me

Dressed in Muslim hats, male street vendors have been pushing large carts with a foot high cake filling an area of at least four Monopoly game boards. This curious block is decorated with chewy candies on top. It reminds me of Christmas fruitcake.

One evening while sitting at an outdoor BBQ joint, I saw the huge cake being pushed down the street. I try anything that is edible.

My language skills have improved greatly these past few months where my teaching load of 12 hours a week has taken a hit dwindling down to 4 hours a week. Teaching has been replaced with almost daily one hour lessons of Chinese; therefore, I was not prepared for being unable to communicate. Even during my first week in China, I was able to buy food and an umbrella.

Stopping the cake man, I understood the rhythm of his phrases, but did not understand the specifics. When I asked the price, I understood in general that he was saying a half kilo costs this much money. But I did not catch the specific details. He did not speak the Mandarin that I understand but a dialect completely foreign to me.

When in language doubt, I start guessing which this time was not a good idea.

I miss-assumed that food in China is cheap and miss-assumed that this cake was not heavy.

With body language, he asked us to show him how much to cut off. He cut a 12 inch by 12 inch, 1 inch thick slab. He asked me to help him with the bag and once he put it in the bag, I was like, "Uh oh. This cake is SUPER heavy!" It was a dense 15 pound slice of a nut cake.

I asked how much.
I understood, "8 RMB."
I handed him the 8 RMB.
And then he started yelling!
I kept saying, "I don't understand. How much?"
He pointed to a stranger watching and asked him to help us.
The stranger said, "I don't speak English."
The vendor kept yelling, coz of course the logic goes the louder you shout the better the person will understand you.
It worked.
I finally understood that he was wanting 80 RMB for the cake.
I was shocked!
I told him, "I don't have 80 RMB with me."
I handed him 10 RMB.
He cut me a new piece, a 3 by 3 inch sliver.

Twas an awkward miscommunication.
I hate being yelled at.
And the cake wasn't even sweet.

1 comment:

Katie said...

How frustrating! All that and the cake wasn't even sweet. Bummer. I'd have grumbled. The grumble is the universal sign for "this is too expensive and not sweet".