Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lost in Translation

On our last full day in Beijing we were given a free day.  Our tour guide gave us specific instructions to dilligently watch out for cars to avoid being hit.  He also warned us not to eat anything from a street vendor.  He also advised carrying a card from the hotel so that we could give it to a taxi driver in case we got completely lost.  Several times during the week we had passed by the working Lama temple.  Several of us decided we would love to go to the Temple and back to the Hu Tong.   I was surprised at the number of incence vendors around and in the temple.  There were Buda's after Buda's.  They grew increasingly more ornate and large as we progressed through the temple.  The final Buda was about 250 meters tall and carved out of a single tree - very impressive.

We walked several miles in search of the Hu Tong.  We finally gave up and found a restaurant that looked like it needed customers.  Deanna gave her paper to the workers explaining that she should not be given any MSG.  Amazingly we were able to order and eat a meal without speaking any Mandarin and without the workers speaking a word of English.  No one got sick and we paid the equivalent to about $2.30 per person, including a drink.

We went to the Silk and Pearl Market next.  I bought some tea to decorate some of the handmade soaps I make.  I also bought some jade.  Deanna and I saw some ladies wearing Hard Rock Cafe Beijing shirts.  They were the real thing and we decided that our Joes should have the real thing.  The Australian ladies couldn't remember exactly where it was, but they knew we needed a taxi.

We finally got a taxi to stop, but he didn't understand us, so we had to let him go.  We went back to the Silk and Pearl Market and found a Chinese woman who could speak English.  She was there with her German speaking boy friend.  She used his translator and his computer to look up the address.  She wrote down the "Hard Rock Cafe" in Chinese characters on a piece of paper for us.  We walked about a half a mile away to get a cab.  We were so grateful to be sitting in the cab.  The cab driver took our paper with the address to see where he was going to take us.  All of the sudden he slammed on the brakes and motioned in a mean disgusted way that we needed to get out of the cab.  I thought he was upset that we were only going a short distance and that he didn't want to waste his time.  I tried to argue with him but he kept insisting that we get out.  So we got out and went back to the Silk and Pearl Market.  That was when we saw a rickshaw.  If the taxi driver didn't consider it a good enough fare, maybe she would.  We got in her rickshaw after showing her our paper and she took us about a block down the street and gave us to her husband.  Perhaps we are too heavy, or the way was too far.  We showed the man our paper and negotiated a price of twenty Yuan.  He nodded when we asked him if he knew where we were going.  We felt happy that he was using an electrically powered bicycle on the rickshaw.  I seemed we went down the street for about fifteen minutes.  Then we stopped in front of some seedy little restaurant called Woody's with Chinese characters that I assume meant restaurant.  The driver turns to us and makes some gross eating motion indicating, «here we are».  I shoved the paper in his face trying to tell him he had taken us to the wrong place.  Do you know how hard it is to argue with someone who can't understand you?  We got out.  I wasn't going to pay him, but I felt sorry for all of the time he took, so we gave him half.  When he started chasing Deanna to get more money from her, I shoved the paper in his face again to remind him that he took us to the wrong place.  He finally drove off cursing us as he went.

We had to take stock of where we were.  I started looking around and noticed several sexually oriented businesses like the "Love Cellar".  That was when I got mad.  How dare he take us to this nasty part of town!  I had been unsuccessfully trying to hail a cab, but not surprisingly no one would stop.  All of the sudden I saw the rickshaw approaching.  I have never flipped anyone off in my life, but it was going to happen at this moment.  I was hoping that the finger would mean the same thing in Mandarin as it does in English.  I was trying to catch his eye so that he would be looking when I realized it was a different guy.  He looked at me and gave me the worst come hither leer.  Ooh.  No one ever looks at me that way.  At that moment I caught the sign for Woody's in the background of the leering man and a memory stirred.  I have a husband and have had two teenage sons.  I have watched Saturday Night Live.  They had translated Hard Rock cafe an entirely different way.  That explains how we got kicked out of the cab.  That explains why the woman didn't want to take us.  That explains why we got dropped off in front of Woody's Cafe.

We eventually snuck up on a cab driver and hopped in his taxi before he could leave us.  We gave him the precious hotel card and we were home about forty-five minutes later after a ride past the Forbidden City and Tieneman Square.  Back at the Hotel I asked the concierge to interpret what was written on our paper.  He said it was "Hard Rock Cafe" but that it could also be interpreted as "Hard as a Stone Restaurant".  He made further explanations on the name so that if we chose to go back the taxi driver would not be confused.  I guess it is all in the mind of the reader.  Later that night we went to the Snack Street Market where food like roasted scorpions is sold. We stayed long enough to take pictures, but then we hopped in a cab and went to the real Hard Rock Cafe and got the Joes real t-shirts.  The lengths I will go to completely spoil that cute son of mine.

1 comment:

Fisher Family said...

What an adventure you have had! I hope Joe is grateful for his shirt and what you went through to get it!

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I am a stay at home mom but the clock is ticking. My husband and I only have one child left at home. I enjoy shopping and finding great bargains.