Shoes Turn Into Children

I can understand more than I could three years ago.

Part of it’s from listening to my wife talk to our daughter. Sometimes it’s just easy to predict what’s someone’s saying and another part might be “attention to detail”, that old military teaching tool.

I still can’t follow every word. Mealtime conversations quickly turn into trainwrecks of sounds, the wreckage rising in direct proportion to the amount of baijiu consumed. Another problem is this place. This dialect.

The local dialect.

It’s easy to hear the difference between the local Hubei-bred Hua and the CCP-approved brand, easier than it was three years ago. The local dialect sounds faster — when people know each other, for whose benefit would they slow down? Also, it’s louder, naturally, here in the home of the “nine-headed birds”. The number of tones are the same.

Here’s a short list of differences between Mandarin and the local dialect. This is spoken in a small Hubei town. Suggestions and corrections are welcome:

hē 喝 “to drink” = huǒ

xué 学 “to study” = xuó

gěi 给 ”to give” = gě

ne = ni (as in: Baba ne? becomes Baba ni?)

bào 抱 “to hug” = pào

chī 吃 “to eat” = qī

zāng 脏 “dirty” = āo zòu

yī diǎn dian 一点点 = yī kār

And everyone’s favorite:

Shoes = Children


A scene from (real) China: the twins’ first birthday

I have never referred to a place as Real China, and God willing, I never will. I don’t think there is such a thing as Real China. There’s Modern China, there’s Old China, and there’s even, and I’ve heard this, Old Old China, which is a lot more descriptive than either Old or Ancient, isn’t it?

Real China (and it’s variant: real Chinese city) are used in comparison to places like Beijing and Shanghai. The recruiter for my first ESL gig said that Wuhan is a “real Chinese city, unlike Beijing and Shanghai”. Beijing and Shanghai.

Fake China.

However you want to describe it, here in my wife’s hometown you’ll see stuff you may not see, even in “real Chinese cities” like Wuhan.

For instance, yesterday’s birthday celebration:


Twins, a boy and a girl, were turning one. It’s usual to treat a baby’s first birthday as a big event, and these parents didn’t disappoint. There was a banner:

Wishing their dear daughter and son a happy first birthday.
Wishing their dear daughter and son a happy first birthday.

And live music:


The celebration, loud music and speeches kept going until about 9 that night. Close to the end, right before the firecrackers, they announced that Fei Xiang had dropped by. I went outside to snap a photo, but sadly, it wasn’t really him.

Earlier in the day they had Zhuazhou. I don’t have pictures, but Zhuazhou is where the child is set down and allowed to crawl towards and grab an object. What he grabs is supposed to tell the parents about his future aspirations and accomplishments.

For more on Zhuazhou, see:

The Tradition of Zhuazhou, First Birthday Celebration

Zhuazhou – Gift Picking at 1 Year Old

Here’s wishing the twins a happy birthday

A pity the real Fei Xiang couldn’t make it.

So I’m back in China, and…

Patience is still a required skill.

On the train we entered the car at the back end. We had to get our huge suitcase to the front. We’re going along pretty well, until here comes this guy. His suitcase is smaller than mine, more of a satchel with wheels. We politely ask him to stand aside, but Fuckstick apparently can’t wait the whole three seconds it would take to let us by. He says he can’t and just stands there, waiting for us to haul our suitcase, which is bigger than two of him put together, out of the way, squeezing it between a couple seats.


Patience is watching a woman twice your age throw a temper tantrum because she can’t cut you in line for the elevator.

Patience is being woken up at the crack of dawn by a megaphone right outside your window blaring “Mai pingguo you zi!” on infinite repeat.

Patience is arriving at the Hankou train station jet-lagged with four suitcases to find the elevator closed. Patience is listening to the guard tell you it’s closed without explaining why.

Patience is then watching the guard open it for someone else after you’ve hauled your four suitcases up the steps, one at a time.

Patience is dealing with stuff like this on a daily basis. Patience is dealing with it, and not going to jail.

Patience is the difference between making it in China or going fucking insane.