Sunday, November 22, 2009

While you were out:

Look at this; three days, a half week, nearly, already, without any posts here on The Guangzhou Story (TGS, to fans). I apologize -- it's been a strange and strangely busy week, but I'm ready to get back into the game, so let's get started.

Here are some things that happened while you were out:

- I got a haircut. I think it's somewhat worse than the last haircut I got, but it's already gotten rave reviews from one student. (She: "You got a haircut." Me: "Yes." She: "Well, it looks better.") When the woman at the hair cut place saw that I was only wearing a light sweatshirt, she said, "Aren't you cold?" and then called to her coworker, "Hey, look at what this guy's wearing!" And then when I told her that I didn't want it too short, she said, "Well of course not! It's wintertime! You have to keep warm!"

Guys, it's 53 degrees. (Actually warmer now. High today was 61.)

- I got a cold. I woke up this morning with a bit of a sniffle and a bit of a tickle in my throat, and then taught class for three hours. I told my cinema students that my sore throat meant that they should participate more this week, but that doesn't work when I'm trying to teach is "Vertigo", a film which, despite having been released in 1958, contains sentences like "Maybe he's on the bum and wants to touch you for the price of a drink." Not 100% accessible to non-native speakers.

Anyway, to combat this cold, I bought another bag of 感冒茶 (catch cold tea), a traditional Chinese remedy, which, as I noted last time I got a cold, could literally be made of anything, since I didn't understand any of the words on the back.

This time I decided I might as well bite the bullet, pull out my dictionary, and see what is actually in this stuff that I've already had 4 cups of today. Here is what it says under ingredients on the back of the bag, translated literally.
Ingredients: sucrose, guard the wind, thorn mustard, small firewood mustache, tree passage, burdock grass, forsythia, three fork bitterness, gold cup silver plate.
I have no idea what any of these things are. I was really scared when I saw "burdock" (牛蒡 in Chinese), because 牛 means beef, and so in the time it took me to walk from the kitchen to the dictionary in my bedroom, I was mentally preparing myself for the possibility that the delicious sweet drink I had been enjoying was partially made of cow. Luckily it's only made of small firewood mustache.

- I watched a movie called "Cow" (《斗牛》, but since it's about a (female) cow, it should be clear to Chinese speakers why this title presents a translation challenge). You can see the trailer on YouTube, but it won't give you a good sense of the plot because it downplays a crucial aspect of the movie, which is: the cow. Typical attempt to bury the cow subtext of the film -- the studio was probably scared by how poorly cow-related movies have done with audiences and critics in the past. Who even remembers the criminal neglect of the classic "Dial M for Mooder"? Starring Grace Cowley. Directed by Alfred Hitchcow. Badda bing badda boom sometimes words sound sort of like other words and that's how "jokes" are born.

More to come as the situation develops. Keep your ear to the ground.