Over the past few months I have been working on many different projects, a few music things in the works (secret projects! to be announced soon!!) and focusing on learning Mandarin. I have a great time learning the language - learning a new language is a great way to get your brain in shape. It has been a long time since I have 'felt' myself learning, but with language, you can see your progress so easily! I know a thousand Chinese words (although I often mix them up and say the wrong things...) and am currently starting to read and write. I have this idea that a person does not really ever learn grammar until they start learning their second language... wow, grammar really is a huge pain in the ass, and a difficult thing to learn! Not to mention Mandarin grammar is fairly easy! Learning French must be a total pain. Anyways I speak at the level of a three or four year old, and I am gonna keep on going! It has been a life goal of mine to really learn another language so that helps motivate me... but I never in my whole life ever thought that I would learn to speak Chinese!
Today an interesting thing happened to me, I thought it was worth noting here.
I went to have lunch with my friend Henning (professional mixologist from Germany) and afterwards we stopped off to get a coffee. A daily trip to get a coffee has seriously been possibly the number one thing that has improved my Chinese, I always talk the poor baristas ears off. They of course must think I am just some crazy guy, I come and order a coffee and while they make it I tell them (a total stranger most times) what I have been doing today, and what I think about the weather and Beijing. Then they ask me a few questions that I can understand so we chat back and forth until inevitably they say something that I have absolutely no comprehension of. Then I say "听不懂" (I don't understand) and laugh. After this, maybe they try to explain what they said to me a different way, but really most times I am not able to learn expressions that easily except from my lovely teachers.
I do take pity on these poor people having to deal with me, so if I recognize someone that I have talked to before, I try to say something a little more interesting or different than the typical day chit chat. Seriously, sometimes it is hard to figure out what to say to people, I want to improve the language so I need to use new words but most people always chat about the same things... weather, work, feeling tired, etc. So my new goal is to move conversations to the next level, and inquire for more information. When someone tells me now they are tired and want to go home, I am trying to ask "Why are you so tired?" but sometimes I feel a little socially awkward knowing that most likely they will unleash a barrage of Mandarin at me that my poor blast shields cannot withstand, and I will be left dumbfounded. When people do not understand they get a very specific look, as if gazing or staring at something far away, but really their mind is going through all of its files looking for recognizable words. I have seen this look thousands of times, and I have myself gave it many times. I need to name it....
Anyways this was a conversation I had getting my coffee at this new cafe we tried. Note, it was all in Mandarin.
"Hi! I would like an Americano and a Cappuccino. How is your day going?"
"What?" insert awkward pause, and smile.
"I want an Americano and a Cappuccino."
"Ok, for here or take away?"
"For here, thanks."
"Do you want a hot or cold Americano?"
"Hot, always hot. I am from Seattle, we always drink hot coffee. Do not add sugar or milk either, because real coffee is black."
"Oh, you are from Seattle - have you seen the movie "Love in Beijing, found in Seattle"?" (Or something along those lines...)
"No I have not seen it, but I have heard about it. Is it good?"
"It is good. Take your girlfriend to see it."
"I do not have a girlfriend."
Uhh... insert awkward pause, "No why!" This was in english, people here understand this saying, it is considered Chinglish. We both laugh.
Then my barista hands me two cups.
"Ok here you go"
I look in the cups, "These cups are empty!" I reply.
"Yes they are, you go make the coffee."
"You make the coffee, over there."
At this point I feel like I am not understanding correctly.
"I go over there, and I make my own coffee."
"Yes, she will help you." He points to a cute girl who is beaming near a large espresso machine and a million different contraptions for creating different types of bean juice.
"I am giving you money for coffee... but I have to make it myself?"
"Yes, that is why people come here."
I have made a few coffee's in my life (the official way) because I had a girlfriend who was a barista, she showed me the basic ropes, but I pretended like I did not know how to do it so that I could practice Chinese. The language was too specialized though, so I couldn't really understand what she was telling me, and we mostly used body language to communicate.
Then I sat down and drank a great Americano, made by an American in Beijing!
And I am still astounded at the business idea... I give you money, you give me an empty cup, and tell me to go make my own coffee. This place was at capacity! You can make a business out of anything I swear it....
P.S. Here is a pick of the band! Someone had an iPhone and shot this, then we found it!