Wednesday, September 8, 2010

And Good Morning to you as well!

Day Two of using new words: Dzou sahn - Good morning. Let me tell you, that little phrase is like a miracle drug. It didn't matter to whom I spoke, giving that precious gem was like handing out money.

I started off with my usual list of assignments: buy salsa ingredients and fruit at the Wan Chai Market, find another place to hang out and read while sipping a beverage, buy daily paper, water and Diet Coke.  Fueled by my success from yesterday and slightly overwhelmed by my desire to stay in bed, I left the apartment about 9a.  Already 90 degrees F (we are on Celsius here - so, 30 degrees C),  thick, steamy air coiled around my skin. I headed over to the Hopewell Center to purchase said newspaper and water. Slightly nervous about throwing out my first "dzou sahn" but went for it with confidence and it went unacknowledged. Hmmm...was it my pronunciation?  Maybe I wasn't loud enough.  Went to Taste and bought two bottles of water - tried again - success! Wow - cashier went from pleasant enough to genuinely friendly in .5 seconds.  She gave me "dzou sahn" right back and said "Very good!" with a big smile. I called "mmgoy" over my shoulder, trying to sound confident about the ending upswing. (Who knew speaking a new language would cause such emotional turmoil?)

On to the Wanchai Market! What is that popular quote "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams"?  Yeah - it's best if you  have some idea of in which direction those dreams are located.  I was prepping myself for speaking with vendors - envisioning myself going to the same stalls every few days and building comaraderie and getting into the whole "immersion" thing. About 45 minutes later, after having walked the same 3 block area several times, I had to admit I had no idea where this market was located and immersion now involved a cool bath. It didn't matter that I had actually been to this market twice in the last two days(!) - I was losing The Memory game.  And in 30C weather, its not time to lose anything!  I finally gave in and decided to head home, if for no other reason than to put on some dry clothes.  Turning one last corner it was as if I had dropped into a movie set.  Vendors, shoppers, tourists, umbrellas, shopping bags all appeared out of nowhere. Yay! Wanchai Market! 

Tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onion purchased (giving out my dzou sahns and mmgoys to anyone who would listen) I was looking for one last item: bananas.  Easily spotted, I walked over to a stall and did "as the Romans do" and served myself. The vendor, a short woman with a round face, smiled and I said "dzou sahn!" and that was all it took. She was off and running in Cantonese, gesturing, smiling, talking, more gesturing to the bananas, to me, to the bananas.  I smiled, nodded, kept working to get the bananas off the peg, and finally handed them over. She kept right on talking and then gave me the price, in Cantonese. I raised my eyebrows - the universal gesture for, "What?" "Say that again?" and she did. In Cantonese. She either didn't know English or wasn't budging. So, like a three year old, I held out my hand with coins in my palm and let her count out the amount. She very cheerfully counted loudly and slowly for me and deposited the money in her basket.  I liked her style....Mgoy! I called as I left her stall. I am definitely going back to her for more practice!

Two more stops and two more "dzou sahns" both eliciting big smiles and return "dzou sahns" and one "very good!".  I came home feeling tired but accomplished. Tomorrow I tackle the MTR and minibus out to Sai Kung.  I wonder what phrase will be most useful on that trip...


  1. How exciting to be living in, experiencing in, LEARNing in another culture - maybe someday I'll... go out West! Be well, be happy, STAY IN LOVE!

  2. Love the blog, feels like you are just around the corner!

  3. Mmgoy for the post! I love it. Keep sending new words each day. I want to learn with you!

  4. Amazing that you write so well while marching through the fatigue.