Mandarin is logical 28 August 2014

Well at some point I had to tackle the issue of where I call home. When I collected Eleanor from school I initially said let’s go up to the flat/apartment. Now I say, “let’s go home”. We are now entering our fourth week and we have fallen into some kind of routine. Today my Mandarin teacher asked if I was English…. well now… talk about a can of worms. Those of you who know me well enough understand my protestations of being called English. Today I succumbed. When I explained that I am Northern Irish, there was an intake of breath from my teacher. Apparently “Northern Irish” is really difficult to say in Mandarin. So there you have it because of pronunciation issues I am by default English.

We went to the government office of Suzhou yesterday (or something to that effect) and have handed in our passports over for a period of about 2 weeks in order that our residency can get sorted, and I suppose once that is done we will be officially residents of Suzhou.

Eleanor is learning Mandarin at school and came home yesterday counting to 10. I came home from my mandarin class on Tuesday able to count up to 9. Though I also knew how to ask for a telephone number (both a mobile and a landline)!

Mandarin is, as our teacher at New Concept Mandarin keeps saying, quite logical. Though I am not appreciating the fact that I need to do mental arithmetic in my head, working out the numbers in Chinese and then saying the date. For instance 28th August 2014 is 2014 (all separate numbers not 2014 but two zero one four) 8 (they just say the months as numbers – the months have no names except their numerical order, and then 28 is two ten eight. (2×10+8). The days of the week is “week +1,2,3 etc for their numerical order. Sunday though is not 1 but is special having no number is attached – the literal meaning is weekday.

Today’s Chinese life lesson was that the metro/subway/tube does not take 100RMB notes. The ticket is only 2RMB. But the only note I had in my purse is the largest note the Chinese use. My nearest metro station does not have a shop, the nearest building is the Court. And there was no one at the help desk, My one lesson in Mandarin was not going to get me very far, and of course when I want someone – anyone – the place (at rush hour) was deserted. Aha,  a person coming up the escalator. She comes out of the barrier, I stand and block her way and pathetically ask her if she speaks English. She shakes her head. I wave my red note at her and point to the ticket machine. Her eyes light up in understanding, she puts down her handbag, and from my vantage point I see wads of. notes in her bag. She takes out a bundle of 10s, counts them and hands me 10 notes. I now have the correct denomination to put in the machine, get my 2 RMB ticket and change. I arrive at my Mandarin lesson with minutes to spare.

Lesson completed and off to lunch via some supermarkets. I am getting used to knowing where the expat supermarkets are and what they stock. 2 of them have salt and vinegar crisps and one today stocked weetabix and they all have SPAM. I don’t know how many of my blog readers regularly have SPAM, but I for one can count on one finger (and even that would be too many), how many times I have had the canned product. The one today (SUMMIT on Singa Plaza), also stocked Robertsons mincemeat. (Could really have done with this in December 2018 when I have a proper oven and was on the hunt for more mincemeat for mince pies). I had to explain to my American friend what mincemeat was. Tip of the day – buy what you see when you see it. The supermarket also had Bombay Sapphire gin and PIMMS No 1 cup.

Katie my now knowledgeable about mincemeat friend showed me where the baking shop was today. This place is amazing and whilst it is a small corner shop it holds everything that a baker could possibly want…. a small fortune will undoubtedly be spent here, but perhaps like the craft store it won’t be as much as the UK. (2018 and I haven’t been back recently – need to go on an explore and see if it is still there).

On Tuesday I ventured to school, again by buses 100 and 27 to see Eleanor at assembly. I met another mum on the 27, who was clearly surprised to see another westerner on the bus to Dulwich. She said that in her 3 years of going to the school on the public bus she rarely saw another parent. It is clear that “drivers” take mums to school when their husbands have carpooled to work.

Assembly was good. Eleanor spoke on stage to her classmates, the rest of year 1, year 2 and reception about trying to write. She got a golden balloon and star for her efforts in music. They they watched a video of the Hare and the Tortoise with the theme being about trying tortoises. A phrase now used regularly in our house when trying new food. Superhero day was also a success – even if I do say so myself. I think Eleanor’s costume was the only truly homemade one and it survived. She did question me at the end of the day as to why I had been at assembly. I replied that she had wanted me there, that I didn’t work so could come. But this was clearly the wrong answer. We had tears, but I think that was more to do with the fact that she had been up at 5am excited by the arrival of the tooth fairy who had taken her first tooth, left some money and a balloon.

Martin has had some really long days in his first teaching week, but is really enjoying it. The students are delightful, motivated, keen, hungry and thirsty for maths – just up Martin’s street. I have only failed at putting dinner on the table once this week – and that was on Tuesday when I started class, went to Eleanor’s school and having been up at 5am I did not feel like cooking so we had street food.