What Does China Sound Like

I have friends who are considering jobs in China.  I have some mixed feelings about the place (still LOVE Shanghai though!), but when I wrote this blog post I had only been there for a couple of weeks and everything was new.

8/8/2011
What does China sound like?
Currently I can hear the sound of my neighbor practicing the piano. This is the first time I have heard them and I am guessing that the piano shares the wall with my (beautiful leather) couch.  They aren’t doing a bad job so it doesn’t bother me yet.
I don’t hear the sound of cars and honking like I thought I would when I imagined myself living in a city of 25 million.  Because I live in a suburb the sound I hear when I go to sleep and wake up are the cicadas and the fountain in the courtyard outside of my building. These are both peaceful sounds that I only notice while I am in my apartment if I have my kitchen window open while I’m cooking or in the early morning when everything else is so quiet.
In the park across the street from my apartment complex I have heard live musicians and singing each time I have ventured through there.  At first I thought it was a recording but I can hear the instruments starting and stopping. I could be wrong though as I am not at all familiar with Chinese music. Also in the park you can hear groups of men playing cards- the cards slapping the low tables, laughs, and low murmurs of voices.  As I continue through the park toward my local market I can hear groups of (mostly) boys playing basketball with girls occasionally dribbling a ball in the hopes of getting some attention.  Babies are pushed in strollers and toddlers waddle out in front of my slow moving bike.  I notice young teen couples sitting closely together and laughing.
As I exit the park I hear honking of cars, bicycles, and motorcycles. The vendors don’t need to call out much because the market is always busy. The street is a constant roar of sound. I continue on the road past the busy parking lot and go into the quiet peace of the fruit and veggie markets.  Hear vendors smile at me and call out names of things they think I will like “Mango” is one thing I heard.  On my first trip to the market I heard the sound I was dreading just in time, a woman clearing her throat, and then using her finger to shoot a snot rocket right where I was about to pass. Eeeww!
Today was the first day of orientation.  What I heard was the school principal saying a short hello in English and then having the elementary principal/school VP translate for her for the rest of her speech.  The speech was mostly about serving our school of mostly ELLs.  Then I heard the news that I would be opening my bank account at the same time as the internet was scheduled to be installed.  EEK! After that you could hear my fingernails hitting the keys of my phone as I texted the HR liaison about making a compromise for me to set up my account at a different time.  Then my sigh of relief as I confirm with him, the head of HR, and then the assistant HR lady that I can reschedule my bank set up.
After a quick tour of feet tromping up and down stairs throughout the school we rushed to the gate where our driver greets us in Mandarin.  The jumble of voices rises in the minivan as we all try to get to know one another. I am sitting next to T so I get to enjoy her Scottish accent and I can vaguely hear M’s Swedish accent behind me.
We reach the lakeside restaurant and the heavily accented English of the wait staff greets us.  We are all seated and listen to I’s recommendations for the lovely Malaysian restaurant.  I take her advice and order the Malaysian iced milk tea- yummy!  S’s Indian accented conversation keeps my attention as I strain to understand him and we make a brief connection over yoga.  Do (a third grade teacher my age) also practices the p90x yoga and makes a couple other recommendations she thinks I will like from that series.
After lunch we scramble to find a couple drivers to take us to the local second hand shop.  The driver that the school was using earlier to drive us to the restaurant wants to charge us five times the normal rate so A calls a couple other drivers for our group.  Then we leave the school (and my bike that I rode there) behind for the day and go hunting for treasures!
You can hear me exclaim at the beauty of the four azure colored glazed cups and matching saucers that I found for only 35 RMB (about five dollars!) and then again when I see two sets of hangers for half the price that I paid at Rainbow.  My laptop bag bangs against something as I crouch down to reach a blue Ikea mug for only 3 RMB (about fifty cents).  There are no cash register sounds as I check out but the sound of the sales lady carefully clipping the bubble wrap to protectively package my new cups warms my heart.

 

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