On “The Conversation…”

For flute and string. Allegro Moderato, in Mandarin, key of Bb:

This man shall be henceforth be ‘C.’

F: Taxi! (And here we go again)

C: Please get in. Where do y….Hey! A foreigner! (Hey! My first foreigner!)

F: Gouwugongyuan, please. (Straight there. I know your tricks.)

C: Sorry, where? (What…?)

F: Gouwugongyuan. In Futian district. Gouwugongyuan. (Don’t give me that, I’m pronouncing it correctly.)

C: Huh? (This laowai’s pronunciation sounds like my senile old mother-in-law when she has her dentures out)

F: Gou-wu-gong-fucking-yuan. (You’re Canto, aren’t you? Or Hakka? Mandarin’s the evil government language to you, yes? Well! I. Am. Saying. It. Right.)

C: Ah! OK! (I’ll just take him to gouwugongyuan. That’s where all the other drunk foreigners  go…)

F: Yes! Gouwugongyuan. (You utter arse. Exactly what I said)

C: Where in gouwugongyuan exactly? Do you know which bar? Which street? (Extra cash rip-off-dumb-white-guy time)

F. Straight down through Caopu, west onto Beihuan boulevard, cut through North Futian and then the bar I want is on Fuhua North street. (I’ve lived here three years you swine)

C: Wow! You’re Chinese is really good! (Crap, his Chinese is really good.)

F: Thank you! I studied a little last year… (I got really good at the directions to this one bar, mainly because I’ve been so many times the staff have taken to thanking me for keeping them in business. Now, please, don’t start a conversation with m…)

C: So then, where are you from? (Yeah! Foreigner!)

F: I’m from the UK, from Manchester. Do you know it? (Here we go.)

C: Oh, England! Yes! Manchester! Manchester United! Manchester City! (We are friends!)

F: Yes…! (Christ. Now, wait for it…)

C: Rooney! Beckham! Scholes! Ronaldo! Ferguson! (Friends! Friends!)

F: Yup. That’s them. Frightfully nice chaps. (I hate football so much)

C: I love Manchester United! Very strong team. Shame those blue bastards won this year. I blame the Middle Easterners and all their dirty oil money. But hopefully Financial Fair Play will kick in soon and the playing field (ah-ha, punnery) will be level once again. So, how long have you been in China? (Yeah! Friends! Foreigners! Football!)

F: What? (Oh dear)

C: Do you understand…? (Oh dear)

F: (Christ. Umm… No wait, that last bit made sense: ‘Beyond Survival Chinese II,’ chapter 4, roleplay 3…) [in “Mandarin”] Ahem, I have been here for three years and I came in 2009 to be a teacher and I lived in Nanshan at Nanshan Second Foreign Languages School and my children were between 6 and 10 years old and now I’m a writer working for an electronics firm in Longgang and it is very far away and there are too many people and cars and buildings. (Smashed it)

C: What? (Uh-oh)

F: Do you understand? (Uh-oh)

C: (No wait, that first bit made sense. THINK! ‘Primary English 3,’ Koko and Kiki dialogue 1. Ah, yes: ) [in “English”] Oh you are the teacher! What good job. Very well respected. Welcome to all the foreign teachers come to China. Do you liking China? (I will gain so much face today.)

F: A-ha! Very good. Yes, I love China and I like to travel in your country! I’ve been to Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Yangshuo, Guilin, Guangzhou and of course all over Shenzhen. It’s a beautiful country! (Your country’s currency manipulation policies are harmful, your South Sea Territorial disputes are hypocritical in the extreme and your suppression of individualistic thought in your schoolchildren is nothing short of abuse)

C: Ah. Very pretty places. I’m from Hubei. Do you know it? (You bastard, you’ve seen more of China than I have.)

F: I’m afraid not. Never had the chance to go. I want to! (I had thought about going, but I’d rather have intimate relations with a fruit blender than travel on Chinese public transport again. Hence this cab)

C: So, are you planning on settling down in China and getting a Chinese girlfriend? (Coming over here, taking our women…)

F: Umm, sorry; what? (Oh shit, did you just say “Chinese girlfriend”? OK, language barrier to full. Engage…)

C: Yes, do you plan to start a family here? (I see you laowai. I know your devil tricks)

F: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Can you speak a little slower? (Oh I understand I just don’t want to go down this route. Besides, you’re about to babble )

C: Oh, can you not understand me? I’ve been told my accent can be pretty strong. Back in my hometown I was perfectly clear to people, but down here my wife (she is from Shenzhen) is always scolding me for my poor manner of speaking. She’s forty five now, and really nags me. I like this job because I can get out of the house and away from her. I really just like drinking and gambling with my friends. We aren’t bad people, we just need a bit of a break now and then. Living in a city like this can be hard. It’s so busy, and there are too many people. China has too many people. I just like to relax. Do you know what I mean? (My life is drab and you seem exotic and exciting. Be my friend.)

F: … (Damn. None of that made sense. Really need to study more.)

C: Are you OK back there? (You didn’t understand a word of that, did you?)

F: I’m fine thank you, and you? (I didn’t understand a word of that. At least we’re at the end now. I think we’re just about overdue some polite seat shuffling and fiddling with the dashboard…)

C: OK! Do you want the aircon on? I’ll turn the aircon on. There we go. How about some music? Yes, this is a famous Chinese song. Umm… (Aaaaawkward…)

F: Thanks! (Finally… Now, quick! Put your iPod in before he starts up again.)

C: What do you…? (Ah, he’s listening to music now. Oh well, I’ll leave him be. That wasn’t too bad. I’ve never talked with a foreigner before. Maybe they’re not all as bad as the TV shows say they are. Maybe I actually will take him the short cut… Pahaha, no I won’t. Don’t be silly.)

Repeat ad infinitum with each and every new driver.


One thought on “On “The Conversation…”

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