In the event of a fire, authorities at the local Carrefour advise you to avoid fatal smoke inhalation by bending over on your belly.
I have no idea how to do that. I’m screwed.
It is necessary to bend over on your belly because smoke is the easiest way to make dead.
Really? I always thought leaving no air holes was. Have I been wrong all these years?
I spent my Friday night at Liu Xiang, a local shopping mall where you can a Dairy Queen and a Starbucks on the first floor, cheaper Chinese restaurants on the third, and outside a massive fountain and speakers at four corners, people grooving to select hits from the Backstreet Boys or Westlife.
You may also find English translations there as well. You can determine the quality of the establishment from the quality of the English translation and vice versa. The best translators demand top prices while the lower-tier places get the lower-tier translators and what is the result?
In the event of a fire, first “know the localization of the emergency exit”.
It goes beyond sign translations, down the hall, and takes a left to the restroom. The more upscale a place, the more westernized certain features will be. For instance, The Vegetable Basket, a dining establishment of four stories or so, the school held a foreign teachers’ dinner back in September and during the meal I went to the restroom.
Now, let me say that I have a peculiar habit about restrooms. Whenever I enter one, I always read what’s written on the wall. Always. I don’t care. I read all of it. Even if a stall is occupied, I’ll gladly slip under the door, just to see your deep musings.
So, comme d’habitude, I checked out the stalls, and two emotions hit me. Horrified to see squat toilets, thrilled to see toilet paper. Usually it’s bring your own or use your hand (wearing a brown glove helps), and being upscale means more than good English translations. It means comfort when nature beeps in.
If the westernization for restaurants is access to toilet paper, then for KTV, it’s access to correct spelling.
We spent my birthday and last Friday night at two entirely different KTV Bars. One charged us $100 RMB per hour. The other charged $20. One could afford translators with a solid grip on English spelling. The other decided getting close was good enough; us native speakers could figure it out from there.
For the first KTV, we return to Liu Xiang, land of western shops and yellow mascot-creatures:
The trip out brought me, Camilla, three students (Tina, Eileen, and Louise), and Camilla’s friends. One thing about karaoke here: it is really popular. Another thing: some of these girls sang really well.
I cannot sing, but during the duet for “My Heart Will Go On”, she managed to carry me. Very generous of her.
Camilla’s roommates bought me a delicious fruit cake, and Louise bought me an ashtray. No mere novelty gift, I put it to use that night, and as I watched the English subtitles and the correct spelling and correct rendering of all lyrics, I noted the price and realized that this was a lot of money to stand around and sing. A lot of money.
For the second KTV, we went to a backstreet near this university, land of cheap food and painful noodles.
The trip brought me and Camilla to meet several of her friends.
Her friends poured some tea, bought some popcorn, nuts, and sunflower seeds, and as I watched the misspelled words, the bad grammar, and I realized they tried their best with what they had, but how did they get it? Bad education? Several students have confided in me that the reason their English is bad is due to their terrible level of their Chinese teachers.
Lack of effort? Or is money, as I described earlier? The good translators do not work pro bono.
I sang and wondered how to solve this dilemma. By the end of the song, I had developed an ingenious plan. This column does not allow me the proper space to discuss it or show you photos of my crudely sketched blueprints, so I must offer but a mere hint.
Try bending over on your belly. Past that, it all becomes clear.