Wednesday, October 1: Outside the main gate of the university is a street my students translate as Torch Road; in Pinyin Huǒjù lù. I usually park my bike inside the campus gates, in the bicycle “parking lot.” Then I go out the front gate and make a sharp left.
On Torch Road are a variety of restaurants, lingerie and shoe stores, spas, a bakery and fruit juice stands. It’s a colorful street that beckons those of us who want to escape the campus and have a bit of city life.
This week, I visit this street a number of times. I go in search of some practical non-slippery Chinese shoes. I brought sandals with me from Virginia, but most of them have slippery soles. When it rains around here, the granite sidewalks become like sheets of ice. I’ve witnessed people falling, and I’ve almost lost it myself a couple of times.
I have success in my search. I buy a pair of sandals, a pair of purple tennis shoes, some colorful footies, a lime drink sort of like a Slurpee (lemon ice), and some candles.
At the lemon ice shop, I’m enticed by the green drink on the next to the last panel on the right. It takes quite a while to make it, and when it’s done it’s like a huge lime Slurpee. It takes me all of one afternoon and the next day to drink it all because I keep getting brain freeze.
As I walk down the road today, a young lady falls in beside me and starts chatting. She’s struggling with her English, but I’m proud of her for trying. She introduces herself as Chen Pingfang and she wants to exchange phone numbers because she “wants to be my friend.” I ask if she would mind going into the hair salon with me to help translate. I have a photo of an Asian girl with a haircut I like. After much talking back and forth between Chen Pingfang and the hairstylist, he tells her the cost will be between 100-300 yuan. That’s quite a range! I start to go because I want a set price before I sit down. Finally the stylist, Han Lu Jao, agrees to charge me 148 yuan (~ $24) which Chen Pingfang relays to me. She then says her goodbyes and leaves.
Han Lu Jao sits me down in the chair and studies my photo. He pulls out a book with little samples of hair in dark colors and asks which color I want. I motion that no, I don’t want color, just a cut, and I use my fingers to make a scissors motion. Finally he understands that I only want a cut. I guess he figures if I have a picture of an Asian girl, I want to have my hair exactly like hers, color and all.
This demonstrates the peril of having someone translate for you when you don’t really know the level of their English ability and whether they really understand what you want! 🙂
Tomorrow morning, I’m getting up at the crack of dawn to head to the train station, and on to Guilin and Yangshuo! Happy National Holiday!