|entrance to clinic which is part of apartment complex|
William still hasn't full kicked his cold or, more likely, he caught another one. To help ease his cough and throat, he continues to use a nebulizer. Instead of going to the nearby hospital to use it, we decided to take him into our neighborhood clinic. As far as I know, every neighborhood (housing complex) in China has its own clinic. Ours is run by a husband and wife, who are a doctor and nurse (adorable!). They provide basic care such as administering IVs (probably their most popular service), taking blood pressure, and prescribing medicine.
Whenever I go to the clinic, there is a little old granny roaming around. She must be the mother of either the husband or wife. As a typical old Chinese lady, she loves to chat. Unfortunately, I usually don't feel much like talking when I am out with William, especially when we are alone. I feel worn down by the constant comments, criticisms, and advice strangers feel the need to dole upon us (me). While in America I often like talking with strangers and am somewhat outgoing, in China I often find myself avoiding eye contact, hoping to (please, just this once,) be left alone.
As the elderly woman approached, I sang to William. I hoped this would be a clear enough indicator that I was busy and not up for conversation. Of course, my silly western social cues were lost on her and it just fueled her desire to comment.
“Us grown-ups can't understand you, how can he understand you?” she pondered.
Sigh. While this is certainly flawed logic, I can somewhat understand it. When I first came to China I was momentarily confused when I heard people speaking to their dogs in Chinese. I didn't know what the owner was saying, so how could a puppy possibly understand? But a moment later I realized that obviously an animal learns commands in whatever language it's trained in. Babies are no different, but I didn't feel like explaining this to an old lady. She should have been able to figure it out on her own. So instead, I just smiled and continued singing.
Before long, William started to fuss. Nothing major, just a little squirming. The wife (nurse) rushed over to distract him. You'd think I'd be happy for the help, but I knew what was coming. Sure enough, before long she said to him gently, “Your mom can't handle you.”
I could feel the smoke coming out of my ears. I can't handle him? Was she trying to say I was inept? An unfit mother? Or my child was too unruly? What, exactly, was she insinuating?
“An eight-month-old fusses from having to sit still for 25 minutes doing a nebulizer and YOU have the AUDACITY to say I CAN'T HANDLE HIM,” I wanted to scream. But didn't. I don't know the Chinese word for audacity (but I do now know the word for nebulizer).
But it didn't end there. As I talked and sang to William, trying to get him to relax, the nurse cooed to him sweetly, “Aww, grandma's not here today. There's no one to talk to you.”
I was willing to excuse the 90-year-old woman for her similar comment, but a middle-aged lady should know better. Just because you don't understand the words I'm saying, doesn't mean I'm not talking. But at that moment, I let the wave of anger pass over me. They obviously weren't saying these ridiculous comments in an attempt to hurt me. I kept singing. One day William will be bilingual and he'll be able to speak for himself, in both English and Mandarin.
Have you ever had a frustrating experience due to language differences? How did you deal with it?