February 1, 2008

Zhege tianqi shi bu hao!

Sometime this morning it started snowing again - it did so for a couple hours and then it turned into freezing rain. With temperatures at exactly freezing right now, that means tomorrow morning, trying to catch a cab should be a breeze.

A breeze of ICE!

ha ha ha.

Actually it's quite fun watching the snow -- it's just no fun being IN it. I must confess - my fond memories of snow come from my school days in Maryland, where snow raised the question of school being cancelled. (The popular theory was that school was cancelled iff. the principal couldn't get out of his driveway.) I never really had to walk around in it - I just sort of stayed home and prevailed upon my parents (hi guys!) to drive me somewhere to go sledding, hang out at a friend's house, make me hot chocolate, etc. But most of all I just liked the look of fresh-fallen, undisturbed snow. I enjoyed tromping around in it, too. My dad would take me to the parking lot of the local warehouse store, where the snowplows had piled up the snow around all the lightposts, and I'd climb up on those piles as high as I could. I also have fond memories of sledding down the hill in our backyard and also this ginormous hill behind the local Hechinger.

Aww.

But dealing with this snow in Shanghai is far more annoying. I have no car, so I must walk through the slushy ... er, slush everywhere I go. Taking a cab is an option -- if you can get one. I must confess, the whole reason behind this post is that I just spent close to 45 minutes wandering north on Huaihai Zhong Lu after missing the last metro train at the Changshu Lu metro station. Finally I scored a cab, and the driver tried to play ignorant when I said Shanghai keji guan (Shanghai Science & Technology Museum). Or he might not have been playing - I hear the Puxi cab drivers don't like to go out to Pudong, and vice versa. And there was some girl, I think, standing at his window trying to convince him to kick me out of the cab. But I just kept repeating "Shanghai keji guan -- Shiji Dadao, nan" and playing the ignorant foreigner. He was talking to her and I got the impression he was saying "Sorry, I have this guy here who wants to go to Pudong. I don't like it any more than you do, but how am I supposed to kick him out? He doesn't understand me." Hahaha. Being a lao wai rocks sometimes.

So he takes me to Pudong, and I do a fairly good job of directing him in Chinese. The commands for left, right, straight, and stop are second nature to me now. Knowing those plus the names of the streets can get you (I mean, me) home pretty easily. I live near the Thumb Plaza and the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum -- all cabbies in Pudong will know those landmarks, but again this fella must work mainly in Puxi. So I had to direct him most of the way.

There's a roundabout near the end of Shiji Dadao as you approach the metro station - and I think it confused this guy, haha. I don't blame him - it would confuse me too if it was the first time I saw it. I kept saying "straight, straight" but of course in a roundabout, that means "bear right while turning left and look out for the name of the road you just got off of, which will be on your right." Hahaha. Luckily we made it okay. I was even able to educate him. As we made a left onto Dingxiang Lu, my street, I pointed across the way and told him THAT'S the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum. This is just like the time I educated a taxi driver about where Zhangdong Lu is (that's where my office is, and it's way the hell away from anything else in Pudong).

Anyway, I was out in Puxi having dinner with the guys from Void. They're having a ruckus at The Shelter Saturday night and they invited me to eat some dinner with them tonight. We went to Jishi, which is a really good Shanghainese place just off Huaihai. Getting a taxi from the Hengshan Lu station to the restaurant was pretty tough as well. I was waiting outside for about 10 minutes. One guy stopped, rolled down the window, and was like "Where you going?" I think he was an expat because he had no accent, haha. I told him where and he goes "80 kuai". I was like, uh, NO WAY. Tai gui le. So I waited 3 more minutes and got a non-scam taxi ride for 12 kuai. Haha.

This taxi driver was really crabby. He was brusque and harrumphing when I said okay, not only turn left onto Tianping Lu, but look for 41. I admit it was tough to see the numbers on the sides of the buildings, given the dark and the wind and the snow. But he did. Then he tried to pull the "my card reader's broken" trick. So for those who don't know, in Shanghai you can get a farecard, like a debit card, that works by RFID. You hold it up to scanners on the bus, metro, taxi, etc. and it deducts the proper amount from your card. It's a really kickass system. Except sometimes taxi drivers will say their meter's broken and they can only take cash. I think this is so they can pocket the money from the ride instead of giving the cab company its cut, or something like that.

So, knowing this, I kind of protested, like, no, shua ka, shua ka which means "swipe card." I then switched to mei you le, mei you le ("I don't have it") referring to cash. (Which, I must point out, was a lie.) Still, he refused to budge. So at this point I make as if to get out of the cab, and he grabs my arm and is speaking very angrily at me now. Again, I'm the dumb lao wai -- wo ting bu dong, wo ting bu dong. Hahaha. Finally he flips the card reader down and -- SURPRISE -- it's not broken after all.

Amazing how that works, eh?

So yeah, good times in cabs, man. For real. This weather brings out some crazy people, lol. I'm not even going to write about the cab driver I had from my apartment to the Shanghai S&T just to get to the metro this evening. That was just frustrating. I need to learn the word for "metro station" or something -- because when you say Shanghai keji guan, the cabbies take you to the musem itself -- which is great because you can walk inside, down some stairs, and end up in the metro station. Unless it's nighttime and the museum is closed, so instead of walking through the musem, you have to walk around it which sucks because it's precipitating like mad. Luckily I know a shortcut to the plaza from Yingchun Lu so I had her drop me off there instead of outside the locked doors of the museum. Hahaha.

And just for good measure, I have to complain about Chinese again. I got a text message from a friend today. If you translate all the Chinese words into English, the message reads:
You this weekend have work?
Which of course means:
Do you have to work this weekend?
It's rough going when you (I mean, I) can maybe understand the words people are using but not the phrase they are trying to say. So that's one thing I definitely need to focus on: the order and succession of words when you want to put together sentences. Even when I do hear something correctly, it still takes me several seconds to translate, in my head, from Chinese to English. I'm not really complaining, after all, I haven't even been here a month. I shouldn't expect to be fluent just yet. But still :-)

Okay, that's enough whining, I'm going to bed :-)

1 comment:

AuntIlene said...

Ryan,
Even your 'whining' is entertaining. Feel free to whine all you want to!!!

Love
A.I.