Friday, October 31, 2008

My "Scary" Story for Halloween

Being as it is Halloween, I suppose I should tell a scary story. Hm.... here's the best I can do at the moment.

I've found over the past couple of weeks that something has changed in my experience in China. In the past, wherever I went, if there was English on a signboard or something, I couldn't keep from reading it. As I'm sure you've seen on other blogs that talk about life in China, that can lead to some very amusing experiences with the English language. It gets all twisted and garbled up, and comes out as something very fun to engage.

What has changed for me is that I've begun to notice English words less, and find myself reading the Chinese more and more. I guess the Chinese words have (finally!) become more "real" to me through my language studies, and so they stand out to me as language now in a way that didn't seem to happen much before.

As a result, I've come across some "scary" revelations. I thought that I knew Shanghai quite well, but it seems that there have been some things that remained "secrets" that were kept from me, just because the written language didn't really click much in my mind in the past. Now, I'm finding that it is working in my head much like the spoken language did when I first came here — allowing me to hear the language used in a way very different from what I am used to in Singapore.

The "scary" part is what I have learned about the neighborhood in which I live. I knew there was one massage parlor near my front gate, as it has "Massage" written in English. I wasn't entirely sure whether "massage" is really the best word for their main business, but I also didn't feel much like going in to check it out. Since I've been noticing the Chinese words more lately, I've found that there is an "adult health" shop (which may be a massage parlor, but may also be something else) at the back gate to my housing estate too, and a block of about 10 similar establishments along the path where I run several times a week (along with a slew of shops advertising "adult health care products" — none of them being the kind of spot you'd stop in to pick up your prescriptions or daily vitamins). It is funny that since I noticed the wording on the sign at the back gate, I've started seeing such shops everywhere around where I live. It is the kind of place one might not think would be displayed so openly in China, but the signs and ads are actually quite prominent (even if the wording is somewhat euphemistic), making me wonder how I ever missed them in the past.

The scary part of it all is that I had no idea that my neighbourhood was surrounded by such "interesting" shops. Who knows what I might find next.

One way or another, it has certainly given me an incentive to keep up my language studies.

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