Sunday, March 15, 2009

Things I still don't understand

This afternoon I was sitting on the couch doing some Wheaton reading when a persistent knock came on the door. A Chinese knock, and probably not a student. When students knock, they are usually so quiet you hardly even hear it. When strangers knock, it is loud and persistent and they don’t stop until you answer the door.

I opened the door two high school aged girls that I had never seen before. One of the girls, seeming only slightly fazed by the foreign face, immediately launched into Chinese. I didn’t understand a word of what she was saying, and I had no context clues to help out, since I had no idea why they were here. They stood in the doorway for about five minutes while she said a whole bunch of stuff and then asked if I understood, to which I would always say, “Ting bu dong.” No, no, I still have no idea what you are talking about.

They tried to start using gestures, but those weren’t so helpful either. The quieter girl waved her arm around in a circular motion and the talkative girl tapped on the door. She tried to think of any English words she had learned. Finally she came across “cooka!” Which she repeated over and over again. That I understood, but I still had no idea what she was talking about. After a while, she pulled out a spray bottle of what looked like cleaning solution from her backpack.

I was standing right in the doorway, but somehow she managed to squeeze her way in anyway, continuing to say a lot of stuff in Chinese. She sprayed the cleaner on the light switch and started wiping it away with her hand saying, “Good! Good!” Then she darted into the room to grab some tissues from the table, and used them to show all the dirt that she had cleaned away.

Now I was starting to get the idea that they must be trying to sell this stuff. But I was still completely confused and now they had come inside and shut the door. It’s not that I felt intimidated by high school girls, I just find it very strange when people I’ve never seen before force their way into my house.

The girl reached over and opened the door to the bathroom. It was clearly not what she was looking for. But she gestured around in there and said a bunch more stuff. Then the girls took off their shoes and started to walk back through the house until they got to the kitchen. There the girl sprayed stuff on the stove hood and used the same tissues to wipe away more dirt. I started to cough from the very pungent odor while the girl continuing going on about how her spray was really good. At least, that was my guess.

Finally I told her I didn’t want the cleaning spray. She seemed undeterred. She picked up the other cleaning spray and tried to explain how hers was much better than this one. I had a recipe book on the counter which the girl picked up and started flipping through. She read out several words in English, just for the heck of it I guess, “Apple cake,” and then looked up at me expectantly. She continued to talk on while the quiet girl looked at the pictures on my fridge. After a few more times of saying I didn’t want the cleaning spray, I guess she got the idea.

I tried my best to usher them out of the house. I was impressed by their bravery. Most people get really nervous when trying to talk to foreigners or when we can’t understand what they are saying. It didn’t seem to matter to these girls much at all. I was impressed but a little annoyed too. And about as confused as when they came. I still don’t understand a lot of things that happen in my life.

1 comment:

sarita said...

haha. oh Ruth! Sorry to laugh but I can't help it. I could totally picture this scenario. Funny things do happen in the land of Zhongguo.