Thursday, September 22, 2011

My life is a game of charades

Today, I successfully managed to ask for a webcam for a Mac computer. Kind of.

The supermarket by us sells a wide variety of webcams. My camera on my computer works some of the time, but does really bizarre things, like only show a video of my eye, the rest of the time. I figured it was time to buy a webcam, especially since they're pretty cheap at the supermarket.

After doing the rest of my shopping (which consisted of Coke Light, peanut butter, and yogurt), I headed back down to the webcam section. The lady came over to help me, and I pointed at the webcam I wanted to see, since they're behind glass doors. I assumed she would give me the box to look at, since that's what's happened every other time. Wrong. She grabbed her pen and the pad and started to write a receipt for that webcam. Wait!

I grabbed my phrasebook and she stopped. I showed her box - xiang zi (with the characters) in my book and attempted to say it. Light bulb! She got the box and handed it to me. Thankfully, the instructions and operating system required were in both Chinese and English. Unfortunately, that particular webcam only ran on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. At least, that's what it said, and I really didn't want to buy a webcam, get home and figure out it didn't work, and then have no idea how to return it.

I needed to communicate that I had a Macbook. I attempted in English. "Apple? Mac?" Nothing. Then, I remembered that my kids all knew iPad and iPod. I figured that if she recognized those words, she might get the point. "Apple. Mac. iPad? iPod? Steve Jobs?" Nope, nothing. She grabbed the cosmetics lady to help her. The phrasebook came back out.

I pointed to computer - ji suan ji (sorry, I still don't know how to write the tones in this blog.) Then, I said, "wo you mac. bu shi windows." Very, very poor Chinese that roughly means, "I have mac. No windows." I pointed at the part of the webcam box that said Windows Vista. She understood!! The two of them started looking at different boxes to see if any of them said anything other than Windows. Sadly, I wasn't able to find a webcam. "Me you," she said. I don't have it. Oh, well. "Okay. xiexie!" Thank you. At least I was able to, sort of, communicate. And she has a really sweet story about an American attempting to speak Chinese.

My next act of charades came once I left the supermarket and realized that I had completely forgotten the packing tape I needed to finish my bingo cards tonight. I was already almost home, and didn't want to go back, so I decided to hit up a few of the corner stores nearby that sell school supplies. I dropped off my groceries and grabbed the packing tape roll I had in my room.

I went into the first store. "Nin you zhege?" I said, while pointing at the packing tape. (Roughly, do you (polite) have this?). No luck at the first okay. "Me you".

Haha, side note, me you is pronounced more like "may yo" than how we would say the words in English. Again, not being able to write the accent marks that signify the tones really messes with what I'm typing.

Second store. "Nin you zhege?" She did have packing tape! Unfortunately, it had really odd pictures of children and umbrellas and ducks on it. The only word I had for "clear" in my phrasebook was to refer to an ATM. "Picture?" I asked, hoping she knew a little English. She did. I said, "No picture?" Nope, she didn't have clear.

Third store. They saw me coming. All of the stores are right next to each other. I had an audience of at least five or six people by this point. "Nin you zhege?" I asked the first man who I made eye contact with. He beckoned me inside. He held up a roll of packing tape that was much thicker than the one I had, but had a weird yellow tint to it. Ahh, crap. How to explain clear? He was older, and "picture" definitely didn't work with him. I showed him color - yan se in the phrasebook. "Wo yao zhege bu yan se". Roughly, "I need this no color". Yeah, no one said it was going to be pretty. It definitely confused him, because then he started handing me some of the weird picture packing tape. Seriously, who buys packing tape with anime people on it? Isn't the whole point of packing tape that it's clear? Anyway. I started pointing to my tape again, and pulled it out a little so he could see that it was clear, "bu yan se. clear." I said to him. I think he thought that I was confused because it was bigger, because then he started showing me with his fingers that his roll was bigger. I pointed to the part I had pulled off. "clear." Somehow, he understood me and pulled up a piece of the roll to show me that his was also clear, even though it has the weird yellowish tint. Relieved, I asked him how much, paid him, and left.

I better be the first person everyone picks to be on their team to play charades when I get home.

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