And then there were two…

I had a message recently from the liaison teacher at the university where I work. Given that the semester had finished already, it was a little strange (although last year she messaged me when I was at the airport, ready to depart on my winter travels, to ask if I could cover for another teacher who had left). This time, though, it was not about covering for another teacher. Instead, it was to tell me that because my teaching evaluations had come back positive from students, I was receiving a (small) bonus. This is, of course, good news and I was happy to receive it. I cannot, however, read the evaluation comments as I could last year. It seems that now teachers do not have access to these things.

My web browser automatically translates Chinese to English, so some of the translations from last year might not have been translated exactly as they were meant to. One more memorable one read simply 男神 nán shén, which my dictionary translates as ‘Mr Perfect’ or ‘Prince Charming’, but which my browser translated (literally, I think) as ‘male god’. The other two notable ones were ‘a handsome & humorous engineer of souls’, and ‘beauty and wisdom coexist with humour and seriousness’. I do not know what the Chinese said for these last two, but are, even if not literal translations, still rather poetic.

There are only three teachers this year (including me), and I found out on Friday that one of those is taking time off next semester because their godparent is having an operation and they are going to look after them. So, then there were two! I have not (yet) been asked to cover their classes. The other teacher broke their foot just before departing on their winter travels around Europe. I had not actually met the first teacher in person yet (they are new and did not work when I worked, nor did they live in the hotel I live in). I guess we will not actually meet in person now. Haha. The other teacher I see only rarely (again, our days do not match).

There is a new coffee shop across the road from my university. I do not drink coffee (or indeed tea), but around Christmas time, they offered a special Christmas drink which was quite nice, and now they offer a chocolate drink which is like – but is not – a milkshake, so this helps me get my (occasional) milkshake fix. I noticed that they do salad too. The store is very small; how it works, is you download the app, order the item you want then they message you when it is ready and you go and collect it. On Wednesday morning (before the Great Wall trip) I thought I would try the salad. I had been out and about shopping, so was making my way back and ordered it, thinking nothing of it. I received the text that it was ready, just as I was getting off the subway near my university. I went to the store and scanned the QR code, but nothing happened. The guy working there said something in Chinese and pointed down the road. When I checked, I had ordered it at the wrong store. I did not know how to cancel it (or if you can), and I was hungry so I looked at where it was. I thought it was in Xizhimen, which is a rail terminus (and the next – and final – stop on the subway), about a 20-25 minute walk away. I decided to walk there. I found the store, and scanned the QR code again, but again, nothing happened.

After waiting about ten minutes, and receiving another text asking if I was going to collect it, I checked the location again. It turns out, I misread the Chinese character. 西直门 Xīzhímén, is something I recognise. The character 西 xī means south. The store where the salad was waiting, however, was 四道口 sìdàokŏu, 四 sì means four (as in the number four). I had seen this character and presumed it was the character xī instead of sì. Sidaokou street was actually the street along the side of my university, meaning the store was about a two or three minute walk from the first one I had been to. When I realised this, I went into the mall next door, used the bathroom, then took the subway back one stop to my original departure point and then walked back to near my university, found the store (which had no signage on the outside; it was in the lobby of a restaurant) and went back to my room. In all it took about one hour, and I effectively had gone in a big circle. Next time, I will make sure I check the location carefully!

One thought on “And then there were two…

  1. Oh dear, that story of multiple destinations cracked me up! I have absolutely had similar struggles thanks to Chinese characters. Thankfully, a lot of my life is on autopilot – routine does that to you – so the opportunity for mistakes is rare. But when searching for a new place, I tend to misread the map, the sign, the … everything. I’ll make a 15-minute trip 45 minutes, and end up completely aggravated. Way to find joy, though, by posting about it! I’m glad I’m not alone!


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