Posts Tagged With: China

Greetings In China

For many years my family and I lived in China.  Even though I had the basics of the Chinese language, there were so many things to learn each day, not only about the language but also the customs and culture of the Peoples around me.  We were fortunate to live in an area where there were several ethnic groups. This made for lots of diverse and rich experiences.

Everyday when I would step out of my apartment building I would be greeted by different people in different ways.  In Chinese language school we had learned that “Ni hao” was the traditional greeting.  The only thing was that it was usually I who would say that, but the locals would say something different, such as “Have you eaten enough?” or “Going to the market are you?” or “Where are you going?” or “Where are you coming from?” It took me awhile to figure it out but, I think stating the obvious or asking an obvious question was the greeting. One year we came back from America after the birth of our little baby girl. Each day when I stepped out I would hear over and over again:  “Oh, your baby isn’t wearing enough clothes!”  So the next day I would try to bundle her up a bit more.  It didn’t seem to matter because I would hear the same thing every day, especially from the Grannies.  It wasn’t until a particularly warm, sunny, early spring day that it dawned on me.  I was sure I had her bundled up enough and I knew a little sunshine would be good for her, so I wasn’t prepared for the usual: “Your baby isn’t wearing enough clothes!”  In fact I kind of lost it! “What do you mean she isn’t wearing enough clothes??? Look how sunny and warm it is, and I have her all bundled up anyways!”  When I saw the confused stare on this particular Granny’s face, then I realized she was just saying “good morning” to me.  So after that experience I would calmly remind myself when ever I heard that particular phrase that they were just saying hi!

This was right around the same time that I noticed my 4-year-old son had his own particular greeting.  He and his friends were playing out in front of our apartment.  The young girl who helped me make lunch called me over to the window and pointed.  It was the time of day when the teachers came back to their homes for lunch.  Many of them had stacks of hot naan in their arms.  My son was putting his hand out and my generous neighbors walking by were pulling off pieces of naan and giving it to him!

Categories: borderlands, Life, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Does anyone really know what time it is?

Time plays a part in one of those funny memories I have of our early years in Northwest China.  China is a big country. There is only one official time – Beijing Time.  That is the time anything official, such as government offices, airports, trains, etc., runs on.  That is all good and well, except if you live far and away to the west of Beijing, or if you are a local who grew up far and away west of Beijing.  It just doesn’t jive with what the sun is telling you.  So anytime there was an event we had to pay attention to who was telling us about it.  Was it an official or a local person?  Or we just had to ask directly:  “Is that Beijing time or Xinjiang time?”  Being somewhat rebellious children of the 60’s and 70’s we kept local Xinjiang time along with most of our local friends.

Now that doesn’t seem too complicated, but there are a couple more issues involved.  Daylight savings was introduced somewhere along the line while we were living there and then later abandoned.  Some folks just flat-out refused to pay attention to that.  So now we had Beijing Time, Summer Beijing Time, Xinjiang Time, or Summer Xinjiang time.  If that wasn’t complicated enough we always had to keep in mind that events never started when they were stated to start.  Weddings, parties, most social events always started a couple of hours later than posted.  It took us awhile but we did get used to that.  The only problem was that some of our friends, knowing that we were foreigners and clueless at times, would tell us to show up at a certain time for an event and they meant that time.  You can only imagine how often we showed up too early or on occasion too late for an event.

I look back on the “time” issue with a smile.  Time just wasn’t that big of a deal like it is to us here in the West.  The important thing was just to show up at some point and join in the festivities.  We were always welcome and never lacked for food or fellowship.  In fact it was often difficult to leave as our hosts would pull long faces and say things like, “Oh you don’t like the food.” Or “You are bored and haven’t had a good time.”  They would say those things after we had been there for at least four hours and stuffed ourselves so full we could hardly move to the door!

Categories: borderlands, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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