Sunday, November 15, 2009

Its the little things... like Power

So our laptop battery finally got so low that I needed to plug it in.  One would think that would be an easy task.  However around 3AM in the morning, in a foreign country, where you can't speak the language, it may not be the best way or time to attempt even the most mundane things.  :-)

Me:  Ni hao.  *so proud of my Mandarin skills!*


Me:  Hello?
Hotel Clerk #1: NI HAO!!!

Amazing, the lips are smiling, however, the eyes were still sleeping...

Me:  Hi.
HC #1:  HELLO!
Me:  Yes... hi.
HC #1:  Hi.

Wow, she sure is perky for someone practically asleep!

Me:  Hi, um, I need to plug in my computer.
HC #1:  Hi!

I can see where this is heading already...

Me:  Do you speak English?
HC #1:  Yes!  Hi!
Me:  Great.  Um, I need a power adapter for my computer.

... at this point, she starts reaching for the phone, but not in a normal way.  She has her eyes locked on mine, with this forced smile and messy hair from sleeping in her chair...  

HC #1 dials a phone number without looking down at the phone, all while smiling at me and keeping strong eye contact.

... no answer.

She smiles.  Nods as I ask about the cable again, and starts punching another phone number into the phone.

The smile is still on her lips, and her eyes are looking into mine, however this time there is a flash of panic that flashes across her eyes.

I think the backup she was calling, wasn't answering.  Probably asleep in thier own chair.
The phone rings, I wait... she smiles.

She hangs the phone up quickly, and in one fluid motion (which was quite impressive since I think she was still 1/2 asleep) darts to the other end of the counter, throwing open a door, and yelling something in Mandarin... or Cantonese... heck, it could have been Yiddish.  I probably would not have know the difference.

Instantly a 2nd girl pops out!

HC #2:  Hello!
Me:  Hi.
HC #2:  Hi.
Me:  ... hi.  *I had a hard time NOT saying hello, just cuz they said it with such pride and vigor!*
HC #2:  Hi.
Me:  Um, I'm looking for a plug converter for my laptop... for my computer.. to plug in.
HC #2:  Ah, yes!  Okay.  You have key?
Me:  My room key?  
HC #2:  Yes.  Your room number.
Me:  Oh, its 3513.  
HC #2:  Okay.

HC #2 grabs the phone and starts dialing another number... HC #1is still smiling at me, although I think her eyes are closed... I can't tell.

HC #2:  Okay, sir.  Housekeeping come let you in.
Me:  Oh no, I don't need in.  I can get in.  See.  I have my key.
HC #2:  Then why you need in?
Me:  I don't need in.  I need to plug my computer in.

Aaaah!  In!  She asked for a room... I had mentioned the word "in"... she is keying on probably the only 2 english words she knows.  Still... I wont judge her English, if she dosn't judge my Chinese.

HC #2:  What you need?
Me:  Computer.  *I start making a typing motion with my hands*  Plug into wall.  *I start making a back and forth motion as if I were plugging and unplugging something*

Again, HC #2 maintains eye contact, and starts slowly reaching for something while smiling forcefully though her sleep deprived face.  I thought she was going to grab a bottle of pepper spray and hose me down!  I donno, I start thinking, maybe I was making Aggressive Ancient Chinese Hand Gestures - the kinds that Dynasties used to wage wars with one another.  

HC #2 picks up the phone and calls someone.

HC #2:  Housekeeping come to your room.
Me:  Oh, my room is clean.  I just need a plug for the wall.
HC #2:  Computer?
Me:  Yes!  Computer!
HC #2:  Ahhhh, house keeping show where plug in.
Me:  Great, for power?
HC #2:  For Internet.
Me:  But... okay... send up housekeeping.

When the house keeping lady showed up, she spoke No English at all.  She walked triumphently over to the wall where the internet cable was connected, held it up, and pointed proudly at my computer.

I held up my power cord, and sheepishly pointed to the wall outlet!

Aaah!  Her face lit up, and she scrambled out of the room, only to return a minute later, with a power plug adapter in hand.  

So yea.... its the little things sometimes that we take for granted.

Too bad none of my Mandarin lessons covered asking for power adapters.  :-)


  1. I love your stories guys, so funny !!

    Fran & Terry

  2. I've found so far the art of communicating with people who speak very little of your language usually involves distilling everything down to as few words as possible. It's like they're saying, "Forget your flowery verbose English and just get to the point already!"

    Pointing and waving your arms furiously may help, but not always!