It was the perfect night to test what little Mandarin skills we had. Erik was not due for a few more hours from a week-long trip from home, and there were tasks we wanted done asap. So ate Leni and I put on our jackets and set out to prove ourselves.
First, we went to the general merchandise to buy a length of rubber tubing. “Duoshao qian?” I confidently asked, a smile escaping my lips, before I even finished my sentence. We had practiced this line several times. It was 7nt per foot. The storeowner gave his answer wordlessly, gesturing with his hands. I took five feet and gave him the exact amount. Three silver tens, one five. San shi wu. We were getting good with numbers.
Bolstered by our successful purchase, ate Leni and I gamely went around the back for a more difficult task: looking for my missing water bottle.There were three possible places where I could have left it: at the 823 grocery store, at the duck restaurant, or at the hot soya place at the corner.
We stepped inside 823, and with one glance at the counter, concluded that my bottle wasn’t there. We were out before the automatic doors had closed behind us. At Duck, asking “shui ping?” and miming drinking yielded an apologetic “no” from the Taiwanese cooks. Our trip to the hot soya place was also a bust.
Feeling perplexed, we retraced our steps, trying Duck again, armed this time with hastily translated phrases, courtesy of google.
Left water bottle? Left water bottle last night? We were met by confused stares. It must have been our accents. Finally, ate leni thought of showing them the translated Chinese characters. The three men looked at my screen, and then to one another, and then back at the screen.Voila! One of them produced my water bottle from off the side, smiling profusely. We showered the air with Xiexie’s as we left.
To celebrate, we two accomplished adventurers shared an order of xiao long bao before returning to our campus.
We were beaming with pride as we related the story to our two friends.
“We have a new phrase! Zuo shuiping?”
“Likai shuiping zuo wan?”
Erik, the only Chinese speaker in our all-Filipino group looked puzzled. His brows furrowed as he asked as to repeat our sentence. We proudly obliged. He was silent for a moment, and then he burst out laughing. Zuo was left, as in left or right. It was not the past tense of leave.
Amidst our laughter, we learned a new word. We had been in Taiwan for a month. There were more bloopers to be had. 🙂