I just read my journal that I kept while in China again. It was a personal journal, but I noted some Chinese things too. There are some more stories that I missed that are just too interesting not to share!
Flavour of Watermelons
One night in Xiamen, I went with my girlfriend and their classmates to a local hangout called Helen’s. We went for some beers and pizza for good evening of socializing. After a while someone ordered a hubbly/shisha/hookah for the table. I was sitting on the far side of the table. The waiter came around talking to my girlfriend. She called on me to help talk to the waiter. Through a loud social pub I couldn’t hear much what she had to say. But I heard kouwei. I haven’t heard this word before, but I instantly picked up what she meant and what it meant. 口味 means: “a person’s preference - tastes (in food) - flavour”. I recognized that she asked us what flavour of molasses we wanted for our hookah.
I quickly asked the table for a preference and they replied with watermelon. Now, I didn’t really know the word for watermelon in Chinese then, but I remember reading about the exploding watermelons in China earlier this year. I sort of remembered the word for watermelon and just said what I vaguely remembered. Lo and behold my memory proved me right! 西瓜 (xīguā) it was. I couldn’t believe it. Guess all those blog & news reading I do everyday paid off. This was one the first times I picked up and used a word I learned implicitly and didn’t even know I had learned. Was a nice experience.
Most of the times that I needed my passport for use (flights, hotels, Internet Cafes) I always had it out already. So the attendants never really had to ask for my passport. When I checked into a hotel in Xiamen I was standing at the desk waiting for them to do some admin, but next to me another Chinese person was being served to by another attendant. I looked at them going about their business. Then attendant said “hùzhào”, then person took out their passport. Instant word learned right there. I checked it up in the room on my phone to make sure. I remember the next few times where my passport was required, I kept it in my pocket and let them ask me for it so that I can confirm it.
However, the interesting is this. Most of my Chinese I’ve learned has been through reading and Chinese characters. Hùzhào was one of the first words I learned which I had no idea how to read or write. A foray into spoken Chinese! It was exciting, but different too. For those wondering here it is in characters: 护照.