A Perfectly Useless Amount of Chinese

Like many other Asian Americans, I went to see Crazy Rich Asians. And like many others, I had some typical takeaways like wanting to make dumplings with my family and . However, I also had one realization that I think is somewhat unusual.

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Day Trip to SF with the Family (Int’l edition)

I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but I ended up writing it for an oral report for my Chinese class. Characters first, Pinyin second, English last, hilariously disjointed and contrived language all around.

上个周末,我父母(parents)来斯坦福大学看我。因为他们来,我舅父(uncle)和他家也来了。星期六,我们打算在旧金山(San Francisco)玩儿。

我们觉得天气会下雨,所以我们要在房子里面开始。十一点,我们去 Golden Gate Park 的 De Young 博物馆(museum)。现在,博物馆有 Tut 国王的陈列(exhibit),可是我听说不太好。因为票很贵,我们没有去看 Tut 国王的陈列。我们只看了被子(quilt)和画。

在博物馆,我差不多跟着我表弟(male cousin) Owen 看。他九岁,有活力(energetic)。他妈妈 Berkeley 毕业,可是他真聪明。我表妹(female cousin) Maddy 十三岁,也很开朗。他们都是戏迷,也表演(act),所以他们唱歌唱得很好。

然后,我们去唐人街(San Francisco Chinatown)看春节游行(Chinese New Year Parade)。五点半游行开始。我们在 Union Square 看很多孩子跳舞,有名人,和漂亮的车,可是我最喜欢的东西是龙。别的人对龙投爆竹(firecrackers),龙在爆竹上走。

晚上八点,我们去唐人街吃晚饭。来斯坦福大学以来,我不常吃中餐,所以去旧金山的时候,我一定吃中餐。我觉得 Sam Wo 饭馆是最好吃的饭馆之一。这个饭馆在 Washington 路,很小,可是菜不贵。如果你要炒面(fried noodles),你应该去那儿。如果你知道在唐人街有很好的点心,你应该告诉我因为我正在找。

吃晚饭以后,我父母,姐姐去 Oakland 飞机场,可是我舅父来 Peninsula,所以我跟他回来。十一点我回校园,很高兴我跟我家人过了一天。

问题

1)为什么我们不看 Tut 国王的陈列?

2)为什么我喜欢 Sam Wo 饭馆?

shànggè zhōumò, wǒ fùmǔ (parents) lái sītǎnfú dàxué kàn wǒ. yīnwèi tāmen lái, wǒ jiùfù hé tā jiā yě lái le. xīngqīliù, wǒmen dǎsuàn zài jiùjīnshān (San Francisco) wánr.

wǒmen juéde tiānqì huì xiàyǔ, suǒyǐ wǒmen yào zài fángzi lǐmiàn kāishǐ. shí yīdiǎn, wǒmen qù Golden Gate Park de De Young bówùguǎn (museum). xiànzài, bówùguǎn yǒu Tut guówáng de chénliè (exhibit), kěshì wǒ tīngshuō bútài hǎo. yīnwèi piào hěn guì, wǒmen méiyǒu qù kàn Tut guówáng de chénliè . wǒmen zhǐ kàn le bèizi (quilt) hé huà.

zài bówùguǎn, wǒ chàbuduō gēn zhe wǒ biǎodì (male cousin) Owen kàn. tā jiǔ suì, yǒu huólì (energetic). tā māma Berkeley bìyè, kěshì tā zhēn cōngming. wǒ biǎomèi (female cousin) Maddy shísān suì, yě hěn kāilǎng. tāmen dōu shì xìmí, yě biǎoyǎn (act), suǒyǐ tāmen chànggē chàng de hěn hǎo.

rán hòu, wǒmen qù tángrénjiē (San Francisco Chinatown) kàn chūnjié yóuxíng (Chinese New Year Parade). wúdiǎn bàn yóuxíng kāishǐ. wǒmen zài Union Square kàn hěn duō háizi tiàowǔ, yǒumíngrén, hé piàoliang de chē, kěshì wǒ zuì xǐhuan de dōngxi shì lóng. biéde rén duì Lóng Tóu bàozhú (firecracker), lóng zài bàozhú shàng zǒu.

wǎnshang bā diǎn, wǒmen qù tángrénjiē chī wǎnfàn. lái sītǎnfú dàxué yǐlái, wǒ bù cháng chī zhōngcān, suǒyǐ qù jiùjīnshān de shíhou, wǒ yídìng chī zhōngcān. wǒ juéde Sam Wo fànguǎn shì zuì hǎochī de fànguǎn zhīyī. zhège fànguǎn zài Washington lù, hěn xiǎo, kěshì cài bú guì. rúguǒ nǐ yào chǎomiàn (fried noodles), nǐ yīnggāi qù nàr. rúguǒ nǐ zhīdào zài tángrénjiē yǒu hěn hǎo de diǎnxīn, nǐ yīnggāi gàosu wǒ yīnwèi wǒ zhèngzài zhǎo.

chī wǎnfàn yǐhòu, wǒ fùmǔ, jiějie qù Oakland fēijīchǎng, kěshì wǒ jiùfù lái Peninsula, suǒyǐ wǒ gēn tā huí lái. shí yīdiǎn wǒ huí xiàoyuán, hěn gāoxìng wǒ gēn wǒ jiārén guò le yì tiān.

wèntí

1)    wèishénme wǒmen bù kàn Tut guówáng de chénliè?

2)    wèishénme wǒ xǐhuān Sam Wo fànguǎn?

This past weekend, my parents came to Stanford to visit me. Because they came, my uncle and his family also came to the Bay Area. On Saturday, we met in San Francisco to see what to do.

We were worried that it would rain, so we decided to start indoors. At 11:00AM, we met at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Right now, they have an exhibit on King Tut, but I heard that it wasn’t very good. Because the tickets were also expensive, we didn’t look at the King Tut museum. We just looked at the quilts and paintings instead.

In the museum, I mostly followed my younger cousin Owen around. He’s 9 years old and has a lot of energy. Even though his mom, my aunt, went to Cal, he’s smart. My other cousin Maddy is 13 years old, and she’s also outgoing. They both act and are musical fans, so they both sing well.

After that, we went to Chinatown for the parade and dinner. The parade started at 5:30, and we stood at Union Square to watch. I saw many dancing elementary school kids, famous people, and nice cars, but my favorite were the dragons. Peopole threw firecrackers at the dragons, and the dragons walked over them.

At 8:00, we went into Chinatown to eat. Since coming to Stanford, I rarely eat Chinese food, so when I go to San Francisco, I have to eat Chinese food. I think Sam Wo Restaurant is one of the best restaurants. It’s on Washington, and it’s small, but it’s cheap. If you want good fried noodles, you should go there. If you know of a good Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, please tell me because I have been looking for one.

After that, my sister and parents had to go to Oakland airport, but my uncle was driving back to the Peninsula, so I got a ride with him. I came back to campus at 11:30PM. I was very happy to spend the day with my family.

The Chinese Way*

I often like to give bad, ridiculous advice because the results are often hilarious. Or maybe because I’m misanthropic and like to see people give me dirty looks. Regardless, one of my favorites was to yell, “Push and shove!” whenever a large group of people were pushing through a doorway or trying to get down a crowded hallway. I’ve recently learned, though, that that particular line isn’t because I hate people; it’s my heritage.

Many friends claim that the craziest drivers come from their region of the United States, but all of them would certainly change their minds on coming to China. Welcome to the country where three cars fit in two lanes, where drivers only merge by cutting someone off, where cars don’t even slow down during right turns on red lights, where it doesn’t matter if you’re from England or the US because people drive on both sides of the road. But the problem isn’t just driving; businessmen will answer their phone. In meetings. Most vendors rely on imperfect information to inflate prices, and one must write down a taxi driver’s number to get honest results. And apparently Chinese geometry developed separately from Western geometry, as the amorphous, shoving blob is favored over the line to getting on buses.

From an academic standpoint, this rude behavior seems surprising. Psychology books I’ve read have distinguished Oriental thinking from Western thinking for their strong sense of community. The Chinese base their government ideology on mutual respect and help to prevent underhandedness and economic disparity. It seems, however, that on a direct, person-to-person level, the only way to move forward is to knock down the person in front of you.

While all this seems disgusting to me (being raised in Western society), I feel that their society is simply a reflection of American society. Maybe the Chinese are disrespectful to strangers, but I know firsthand that respect matters tremendously more in the household and to friends. Family discipline remains an important structure. Among friends, there’s a constant sense of good purpose and showing off, to the point of vicious battles to pay for restaurant bills. In American society, most people act sincerely in reaching out to other people, with orderly behavior in public and courtesy to all. The trouble, however, brews at home, where kids get away with behavior that would never be tolerated in a Chinese home.

It’s hard to say whether one is more correct than the other. I have my own gut feelings about it, but even those are biased by my upbringing. Most, if not all, judgments suffer similarly, because we all have our own social expectations. Disregarding the moral consequence of this, I do know that the difference will become an important issue as China grows. The Olympics have proven that China has the bang to matter on the international scene, but the clash is going to make things tough. The culture matters in the business world, where the Chinese must feel they’ve won every deal, while Americans tend towards subterfuge to get a later advantage.

While significantly incompatible, the cultures can find the middle ground, as we are all human. And looking across, people can accept the best that both have to offer. And maybe we’ll all figure out that when we say “push and shove,” it really is a joke, no matter who the target is.

*I was very tempted to title this post “Chinese Douchebaggery” (credit goes to the writers of “The Daily Show” for that word), but I realized that even with disclaimers, the title would overshadow the actual purpose of the post.

Trip to Chinatown

My friend Willie organized a trip out to Chinatown last weekend for some of my friends and me. Eight of us packed into a van to a Chinese restaurant for lunch, milk tea, and a supermarket tour. A hill and tollway later, we were there.

While driving several months ago, I remember listening to a segment on National Public Radio. A woman described her experience with Chinese culture. She knew little about China, but knew about some customs. She couldn’t speak Chinese, but she knew the words for food. She lived like any American family in U.S. suburbia, but her family would cook full Chinese cuisine on Sunday nights. I laughed at how familiar her story seemed, how much it resonated with my own experiences.
(I like this paragraph, though I’m not sure if it’s in the right place, or really fits with the unity of the story. What do you think?)

I had a good time on the trip. I spent some time with my friends, and I visited a culture I’m familiar with and love much, yet rarely see. Nothing about it surprised me, yet I was shocked with the explaining I had to do.

Western and Chinese cultures are a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to me. While both are distinct and separate, they are coupled and normal to me. I could have gone to Arby’s for lunch and Safeway afterwards, and it would have been just the same to me. To my friends, however, it was something different.

I first noticed it with the menus. I can’t read Chinese, so I’m used to the poorly explained English translations. While certainly helpful, I didn’t need to walk over to the wall of pictures to determine my meal.

Which was also set up somewhat different. In western culture, people order individually, often sharing small portions of their meals with others. With Chinese dining, everything is communal. Large dishes are brought out and put on a turntable in the middle of the table, and everyone digs in to the same dishes, almost like a buffet. I was surprised at how calmly that went, as well. Chinese dining is usually a furious ordeal, with the turntable spinning and food grabbed mid-revolution. My friends were more conservative, seemingly unwilling to get the wheel spinning for their food.

It’s difficult to see the difference without a direct comparison. I always understood that the two cultures have had different standards, manners, customs. Even so, both always felt comfortable to me, and never seemed to occupy separate places as much as I realize now. It’s a gift to have two perspectives, two lifestyles. Best of both worlds, right?

(Not wholly satisfied with this, but I know I need to publish. Thank goodness for second chances in editing.)