Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sounds of China

After a long and eventful trip with my parents across Eurasia on the Trans Siberian, an insufficient breeze through Scandinavia , and a visit with friends in the UK, I am squarely back in Middle-America and a frustrating job hunt.

Before I left China, I jotted down a few sounds that I will likely not hear again unless I someday return. Sounds are difficult to capture in words unless you have experienced them. So, though the list may still be interesting to all, it will only trigger nostalgia among those who have experienced them.

Sounds I will miss:

1) Dried tea leaves pinging the bottom of a stainless steel mug on the way to the office water boiler
2) Clanging woks just inside open windows of low-rise apartment buildings at lunch-time
3) Walnut shells grinding together in the palm of a old Beijinger man strolling in the opposite direction
4) The militaristic count to 4 in the morning for various official events and training sessions
5) Women preparing a bed for a guest by beating the mattress with both hands
6) My roommate’s dramatic teeth brushing performance from one room away
7) A room full of shot glasses clanging against glass lazy susans in nearly perfect unison during banquet toasts
8) “Luo la” or “ Lao la” (My name in Chinese)
9) The single syllable “mmm” or “ahh” of agreement in conversation
10) The silence after someone sneezes (as in no “Bless you”)
11) Shameless public singing
12) Chopsticks being washed en mass by rolling them together between hands under water
13) Table tennis in the office hallway in the late-afternoon
14) Rubbish collectors on carts yelling upwards to open windows
15) The deep voiced guy that sells handmade blankets in my neighborhood, also yelling upwards to open windows
16) My Grandmother’s cheery voice through my cheap Nokia mobile at 4:30AM when she had mastered Skype, but not yet the 12 hour time gap!

To be perfectly honest about my feelings on leaving, I have included sounds I WILL NOT miss:

17) The pre-spit hawk
18) The post-hawk spit
19) Northeast or Beijing dialect ‘r’ outside my window at 4:30 AM
20) Alternating fast high-pitched and slow low-pitched voices of elderly neighbors bickering, muffled by not so well insulated walls
21) Loud ringtones of pop favorites
22) ‘wai guo ren!” (foreinger!)
23) ‘lao wai!” ( foreinger!)
24) “e luo si en!” (Russian!)
25) Poor quality pop music bumping from poor quality speakers at storefronts
26) The ubiquitous recording telling me that everything inside a store is only 2 Yuan
27) “Mei Banfa” (Nope, there’s no way to solve your problem / I’m not willing to help you)
28) Muzak magically emanating from fake logs and mushrooms in tourist areas and otherwise natural parks
29) Heavy plastic door flaps closing in your face

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