Impending Diplomatic Incident
Well, my father is (finally) growing up! This Thursday, he heads out from the nest to explore the world, specifically China.
Dad's never been anywhere oversees, so this is quite the adventure for him. Like a great many North American families, I think Dad grew up with family vacations taken in the form or road trips one or two provinces over. This trip to China is a whole different ball game, sure to be an eye-opening experience for him. (I really don't know if he's fully aware what he's gotten himself in to.)
And while I'm no world traveler by any means, I of course have advice for my dear old dad, to help him get by in the land of the Red Dragon, as he teaches mechanics to a class who speak little English for the next three months. Coincidentally, that's the amount of time it took dad to learn his first word in Chinese! Here, in no particular order, are my tidbits of advice (pay attention dad!)
1. Try not to start any diplomatic incidents. China is a big country. We don't want to make her mad. If you do, I'll pretend I don't know you.
2. Don't try to speak Chinese by putting together syllables that sound like they could be Chinese - even in jest (see 1.)
3. Be nice and respectful. I understand that respect is a very important thing in Chinese culture and public shame is a very, very bad thing. If you embarrass someone accidentally, apologize profusely. Then embarrass yourself, just to make up for it. Perhaps our Canadian self-deprecation would be well-received over in China, or at least help add some humour.
4. Don't try to dig a hole back to North America. It really doesn't work that way. You'll have to wait for your return flight.
5. I know you've purchased a translator app for use there. I imagine the "English to Chinese" translator works just as well as any "Chinese to English" translator. And by that, I mean it will inevitably result in hilarious double-entendres or just wildly incorrect word choices. Don't be surprised if they laugh at you.
6. To that end, try to pick up a few words and short phrases. It will help immensely. But remember that they do it differently in China: intonation matters. For instance, the exact same word, 'zhu', means 'pig', 'to live', 'Lord' and 'bamboo', depending on the inflection in your voice. Again, don't be surprised if people laugh at you. Just assume you are hilarious and all will be well.
7. Did I mention not to start a diplomatic incident? Oh, I did, alight. Not that I'm worried or anything…
8. I'm not sure if you realized it or not, but you may note some difference between North America and China. The people there will probably all be Chinese, for instance. And you'll be the very visible minority. You may get a lot of attention. Enjoy it, but don't let it go to your head. You're not a rock star.
On the other hand, you're kind of a rock star to me. Never would I have imagined that, at your age (what? You're on the northern slope of 50), you'd be adventurous enough to uproot your life and head across the world for such an adventure. I know there will be a lot of things that will be very different, things that will teach you about other people, and things that may push your buttons or annoy you. But I also know they will inspire you, invigorate you, and give you a whole different perspective on life.
It seems to me that the Chinese people are a very efficient crew, always looking to tackle tasks in the most timely manner. I'm sure you will appreciate this. I recall so many teaching moments from you when you were convinced I was doing a task 'the wrong way' because it wasn't the most efficient way possible. I hate to say it, but you may just get a dose of your own medicine! I remember my Chinese border from last year fretting over not receiving an email response from a fellow teacher here in Canada. After all, she had sent it hours before, and it was Sunday! So don't ignore your emails too long. They may think you've died.
Oh, and can you please take pictures of where all those 'made in China' products are created? I'd like to see THAT factory! It must be huge!
At the very least, I'm sure you'll have a great deal of fun, some stories to tell and a whole new view on just how large (or perhaps truly small) our world really is. I'm proud of you.
Just don't cause any diplomatic incidents.
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