My 10 Minutes as a LocalShanghai, Spring 2011
Last night when leaving Xintiandi, I hopped in the front seat of a cab, like the locals do, and gave him the cross streets of my next destination. The cab driver struck up some conversation, mostly about the traffic and how if I was smart I would carry around a 雨伞 (umbrella) at all times because you never know when the next storm will hit. He then asked me the best route to get to destination B. Let’s pause for a second. For those of you who don’t know me, I have 0 directional sense. I’m talking no concept of East/West/North/South, I’m talking addicted to my GPS, I’m talking still outstretch my fingers into Ls to determine which way is right and which is left…you get the picture.
So, when this cabby asked me for directions, I responded in my standard “不知道” (don’t know). 100% of the time that is my answer to any directional question, both in English and Chinese. He then turned to me and, confused, asked if I was Chinese. No, I replied, I’m American. Truly astonished, as his jaw dropped my chest swelled with pride. Hands down the proudest moment of my time studying abroad. I had tricked this man into believing, for the greater part of eight or so minutes, that I was a local! Are you as excited about this as I am?
The past seven years of my life, dedicated to accelerating carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand through character exercises, embarrassing myself with my poor Mandarin accent, and memorizing thousands of vocabulary words – only to forget hundreds, led up to that moment of feigning my identity as a local Shanghainese. All joking aside, I will never forget that moment.
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