Monday, January 10, 2011


Posted by She Said

All right, it is the new year, and nothing like sharing an old story to kick my ass into writing again. So, here goes…

Those of you who have stuck with us for a while now know that our last week in China last year included the flat lining of our only functioning, blog-posting capable computer. No amount of wire hangers weighed down with the perfect amount of clothing could revive it. Trust me, we tried. And tried again.


This really sucked because it was our last week in China, which included our vacation to Xi’an. An incredible week with wonderful friends, it was filled will all sorts of fodder for witty and adventurous posts, like the trip to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers. Yeah, the soldiers were spectacular, but it was the getting there that I am going to tell you about.

Our friends, Lilian and Chang, helped get us all onto a tour bus headed to see the soldiers. As the bus started to head out of town, a young Chinese woman stood at the front of the bus and, using a microphone, began what seemed to us to be a very detailed description of how the tour was going to work. Of course, Greg and I don’t speak Mandarin, so it was only a guess that it was something important about the day’s events because she talked non-stop for at least twenty minutes. TWENTY MINUTES. That’s plenty of time to let your imagination go wild with translation possibilities.

Anyway, after she finished, and my eyes returned to a non-glassed-over state, Greg and I turned to Lilian and Chang in the row behind us and asked, “So, what did she say?”

Chang: She talked about the trip.

Me: How is it going to work?

Chang: I’m not sure.

Me: But we are going to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers, right?

Chang: I think so. We are going to make a stop at the Hot Springs.

Me: Oh! We are going to see something else?

Chang: I’m not sure.

And… queue confusion.

Meanwhile, the two gentlemen sitting across from us were listening intently to our conversation. They appeared to be in their late 30s/early 40s, and one was Chinese, and the other appeared Caucasian. Then the Caucasian guy asked Greg and me a question, making it apparent he was of Spanish decent.

Spanish guy: <in English-as-a-second language> Do you know how the tour works?

Greg: No. We were just trying to figure that out.

Chang: <in English-as-a-second language> We are going to stop at the Hot Springs.

Spanish guy: We don’t have a lot of time today. Do we have to tour the Hot Springs too?

Chang: I don’t know.

Then to make things even more interesting, we found out that Spanish guy’s friend was a Chinese-born Spaniard, whose primary language was Spanish. He had left China at 4-years old, and was completely immersed into the Spanish culture, including Spanish school, thus making Spanish his primary language. However, interestingly enough, while he and his friend were visiting various places in China, his Chinese language skills, not used since he was four, were surfacing in a primitive form. In order to help with the language barrier between Greg and I <English speaking>, and them <Spanish speaking>, he tried talking to Chang and Lilian in Chinese to figure out what was going on with the tour.

Chinese Spaniard: <something in Chinese>

Chang: <something in Chinese>

Chinese Spaniard to Spanish guy: <something in Spanish>

Spanish guy to us: I’m not sure how this is going to work.

Us to Chang and Lilian: <something in English>

Chang to Chinese Spaniard: <something in Chinese>

Chinese Spaniard to Spanish guy: <something in Spanish>

Spanish guy to us: <something in English>

Us: Ah! OK! I think we’ve got it!

We all had a very good laugh about the confusion, but we completely appreciated how a little SpaChinglish could be used to solve a mystery.


_IGP8032_IGP8197(Lilian and Chang)