Are you essentially Chinese? The 8D7N All Taiwan Test
Banana at close quarters
Apparently not, according to Mrs. L. Not even after an 8D7N All Taiwan All Mandarin immersion into Chinese culture.
“You’re such a xing something something…” she said as she shoved me away, aghast.
I’d just given her a big heartwarming bear hug.
She’d looked out for me the whole trip, making sure I went on my rest-room breaks, retrieving my purse each time I left it dangling from the back of my chair during meals, recommending the best souvenirs for me to buy.
I had to say goodbye properly!
She gave me an embarrassed smile. “Wo shi hua ren, I’m Chinese, I’m not used to all this touching,” she told me kindly, shaking her head as she walked away to greet the son who’d come to pick her and her husband up.
I was outraged. “Did she just say I’m a banana?” I asked Husband. He shrugged. How would he know? He doesn’t speak Chinese.
I’ve been simmering since, mostly because I think Mrs. L. is right. Despite my Chinese family name and Chinese looks, I’m not essentially Chinese. After all, I must confess, I didn’t even really understand the xing something something phrase she used.
Proves the point right?
There were 26 of us on the 8D7N All Taiwan All Mandarin Tour: A Taiwanese tour guide who spoke Mandarin, Hokkien and Taiglish; an escort from Singapore who spoke Mandarin and uncertain English, 21 fellow tourists who spoke Mandarin, a young Australian-Singaporean-Chinese girl travelling with her parents, half-past-six somewhat conversant me and totally no-comprendo husband.
I got who the 3 not particularly Chinese were.
I got who the 2 bananas might be (not Husband by the way… he’s Vietnamese yellow all the way through.)
The 8D7N All Taiwan All Mandarin Tour is a test of one’s essential Chinese-ness disguised as a guided tour. These are the test modules:
1. Oral comprehension: ½ point if you understand enough spoken Chinese to know what time your wake up call is, when to return to the coach and how long you’ve got for a potty break. 1 point if you know where you are, what you’re looking at and where you’re going to next. 2 points if you get the guide’s jokes.
2. Speaking competence: ½ point if you know to ask what time your wake up call is, when to return to the coach and how long you’ve got for a potty break. 1 point if you can get reception to tell you the internet password and send an engineer up to fix the non-existent room heater. 2 points if your guide can understand what you’re trying to ask him about the history and background of wherever hell you happen to be.
3. Reading: 1 point if you can figure out how the guide’s name is written when he says it’s Little Huang written with the Big Belly and not like an Emperor. Minus 1 point if you don’t, because you’ll end up leaving your luggage under the wrong cardboard sign and it’ll go off on the bus to Taipei when you’re headed for Tai Chung. Also, minus 1 if you can’t read the running electric signboard on the train that tells you where you are and when your next stop will be. You will have 22 other Chinese reading people mad at the delay you’ve caused. (Thank God Husband had basically literate me with him!)
4. Writing: 1 point if you’ve learnt how to write your guide’s and driver’s name on the envelopes you’ll be putting their tips in. 2 points if you can fill in the comments section of the evaluation point. 3 points if you can put in a fluent and idiomatic rave about how funny the guide is and a rant about the idiot driver who forgot to fill the bus up with gas before starting out for your return flight. Minus 1 point if you write the raves and rants in English because then no one’s going to understand and you’ll just have wasted time and ink. 3 point bonus if you can write a salubrious wish on the red tian deng lanterns we float up into the sky as part of our cultural experience.
5. Cultural literacy: 1 point if you know who the God of War is and why he’s being worshipped at the WenWu Temple together with a general called Yue Fei, Kaiji the God of Literature and Confucius. 2 points if you know the stories behind the hundreds of incidences carved into jade tables all the way up the 4 levels of the temple. 3 points if you belief enough to make donation to the temple and it’s ideals.
(Me? I was just confused why there was even a temple jointly dedicated to both Literature and Martial pursuits in the first place. And of course, when I asked, I only understood the half of it and got even more confused.)
I think I sort of passed the test… Mostly because Mrs. L and Mrs. O and Mdm. T and Little W and the rest of the tour were so helpful.
Except for the lecture by the geomancer at the House of Mystical Protective Creatures, Husband and I mostly knew where we were and what we were looking at.
Still, we didn’t end up buying any Original Organic Ling Zhi capsules to bolster our health, nor any Deer Foetuses for our son’s asthma. We didn’t feel compelled, like most of the tour, to have our geomancy fortunes cast, nor did we leave the House of Mystical Protective Creatures carrying an appropriately coloured Mystical Jade Creature. We didn’t buy a shop load of pineapple tarts and sun biscuits to bring home to distribute to our friends and relatives like all good Chinese going on holiday do.
Like the family who’d migrated to Australia, we just weren’t quite in sync with everyone else.
And the litmus test? When we landed in Singapore and it was time to say goodbye, I hugged Mrs. L., something no hua ren would do according to her.
So after 8D7N touring Taiwan I know I’m a xing something something…Meaning a Singapore-born banana?
Ah well. We did enjoy ourselves nonetheless… More of that in the next few posts.
I’m still me nonetheless – someone with a Chinese family name and a Chinese face, someone who’s yellow outside. As for the inside, well, it isn’t totally yellow, but it isn’t white either. It’s a hybrid. Something exotic and wonderfully scrumptious I like to think.
Good enough for me.