Monday, December 04, 2006

wanting to break things

I've been here almost two years, yet there are still days filled with frustration. I'm talking I-want-to-scream-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-and-break-small-objects frustration. Sometimes it's after I've had a really aggrevating class and as I'm walking to the bus stop some freakin' Beijing idiot who's never seen a foreigner before decides to yell a condescending "helllloooooo!" at me. This, in turn, causes all his little homies to crack up in laughter and me to scream back "NI HAO!!!!!!!!!!!!" like a lunatic. Just to clear up any confusion, ni hao means "hello," in Chinese.

Last week was one dosy of a week (yes, I just used the word dosy and I don't even think I spelled it right). I went to the Language University to turn in my application so I can study there again next spring. I had already dropped it off several weeks ago but was informed that I was "too early" and to bring it back at a later date. So I returned last week. My intuition told me things were not going to go well. The young, female secratary ignored my presence for as long as humanly possible (even though I was the only other person in the room). I was pretty sure I wouldn't be walking out of the room with my application and 600RMB fee ($75!!!) handed in.

If you think customer service is bad in America, you really have no idea how lucky you are. . . I'm constantly at the mercy of some cashier/secretary/waitress's mood. If they are happy or like the look of me, they can be fairly efficient, even helpful. But, if they aren't haven't such a great day they want to bestow their misery on every living creature in their path. The latter is probably what happened to me and I was stupid enough to fall victim to it. She wouldn't let me hand in the application without seeing my passport, which (of course) I don't carry around with me. She would not provide me with a reason, but just simply walked away at the first sign of my distress. I'd like to say I walked out with a little dignity, but I can't. I called Zhao Ming to see if he could help me. He went into the office and I waited outside. Several minutes later some security guards came running up. I knew things went from bad to worse.

He didn't get into any fights at least. The secretary was just a little intimidated by him, and by the looks of it when I entered the room, so were the 95 lb. security guards. I convinced him we weren't getting anywhere and we might as well leave. So I'll have to go back, yet again, to turn in my application. I'm going to go in disguise though. I'm afraid if she recognizes me she'll throw my app in the garbage and pocket the $75.

What makes it hardest for me is the language barrier. Unless I'm speaking to someone with fantastic English (probability of this is extremely slim), it's difficult to get my point across. And if I'm stuck speaking Chinese, forget it. I'll probably just get myself into more trouble. Mess up one tone or miss a word and I could go from saying "I need to talk to your manager" to "Your mother is an ugly giraffe." I guess this gives me more incentive to study harder. If nothing else it is certainly testing every ounce of my patience.

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