I have been playing host/tour guide to a group of visitors for the past week, and in keeping with the spirit of Chinese socio-political discourse, I decided that the week's activities would be conducted according to the principle of "The Three Ambiguities."
1. Nothing is as it seems (my all time favorite mantra)
2. Plans can't keep up with changes (my translation of a common Chinese saying)
3. If you're not confused, you're not paying attention (inspired by a conversation between Rob Gifford and a fellow bus passenger recorded in Rob's book China Road)
Nothing like a few good slogans to keep the masses in order.
Given the toxic soup that has parked itself over Beijing the past few days, it's easy to forget that there's giant desert just on the other side of the mountains, and that it is steadily marching towards the city.
I'm playing host to a group of visitors this week, and as we were wending our way around town this afternoon we spotted a sign over a storefront that said TALENTY ENGLISH.
I don't know about you, buy I'm guessing that they are going to have trouble establishing their credibility.
How many have you tried?
(And in case you're wondering, the health inspector did call me again today and yet again I told her my temperature was normal!)
My friendly little health inspector called me again today to ask if my temperature was still normal.
I told her it was.
"OK," she said, "I'll talk to you again tomorrow."
It's nice to know that someone cares.
I made it back to Beijing this weekend and managed to stay out of quarantine. When our flight landed on Saturday night we were told we all had to stay in our seats while inspectors came around to take our temperatures. There were two of them, with a ray gun in each hand. They worked their way very quickly down the aisles, aiming the ray guns at our foreheads. Double-barreled temperature taking. These girls were good! It took them only about 5 minutes to declare that ours was a flu-free flight (say that real fast, I dare you). But we did have to turn in forms with details on where we would be in the coming 7 days and how they could find us (you know, in case someone comes down with a fever yet).
This morning a friend and I were in a taxi and my cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number but could tell that it was a local Beijing number. "Oh dear," I said to my friend. "I'll bet this is the Health Department calling to tell me that the man sitting next to me on the plane has now developed swine flu." I reluctantly answered the phone:
It made me realize that China's handling of this swine flu thing is annoying, silly, and impressive all at the same time.
While the Swine Flu scare has died down in the US, China seems to still be in full panic mode, grabbing people with fevers off of just-landed jets and whisking them off to quarantine hospitals. I know some people whose visiting friends were locked up at a golf resort because they had been on a flight with someone who later tested positive for the bugger.
Gomez, a 29-year-old Alexandria native, was separated from his wife, ordered to put on a mask and rushed by ambulance to a quarantine facility near the airport.
"I was feeling a little scared," Gomez recalled, "mainly because I had no way of contacting anyone."
Although he was eventually found to be free of any serious illness, including swine flu, Gomez spent three days confined in an infectious disease ward. He did not see a single uncovered human face his entire stay.
Doctors and nurses in head-to-toe biohazard suits sampled his blood, swabbed his throat and came into his room every few hours to test his temperature. Anonymous hands pushed meals through a small hole. Receptionists wearing masks passed messages to him by rapping on his only window, which faced inside the facility so he could be observed around the clock.
Oh dear.....I'm flying back to Beijing today. I sure hope I don't end up being thrown into Ditan Hospital for the weekend. I'm not likely to have a fever when I arrive, but I do intend to rub ice cubes all over my face just before we land. And I will not cough! Or sneeze.
When I was in Taiwan last month, I went to the top of Taipei 101, the world's tallest building. As my friend and I were walking around the observation deck, we spotted a sign that made us chuckle. It said:
Another classic example of Chinglish, I thought.
Not so fast! When I got home, because I couldn't figure out what word I thought was being mangled, I began to wonder if frowzy was indeed an English word. So I surfed on over to Dictionary.com, and discovered that, sure enough, frowzy is an English word. It means 'dirty and untidy.'
Who knew I had to go to Taiwan to learn a new English word?!