Appropriately, after being out of it for a while, my latest entry will focus on the topic of "Contact". After dealing with the life essentials of food and shelter, social interaction is another essential component of any alien's existence or even survival. Without Elliot to guide him, E.T. would never have learned how to cycle in the sky or found a phone for that matter.
Superman lucks out by crash landing into a ready made human family (an unfair advantage), but for most of us getting in touch requires a certain amount of effort. So how to go about it? Here are my few helpful pointers.
First let's tackle communication with the local planet population. During my first few exploratory missions, I was struck by the most awesome thought that I might be invisible on this planet. In an effort to show that I was a non-hostile alien, I grinned like an idiot at anyone I came into contact with and yet no-one smiled back, sometimes even waving my presence away as if all they had sensed was an unpleasant and strange whiff.
And yet it soon became clear that this planet had been exposed to Aliens before. Soon my ears picked up the sounds of a fleeting "hello" as I passed, generally followed by what sounded like schoolgirls giggling. By the time I turned around to make contact, my friendly greeters had disappeared. Lonely times.
Furthermore, my efforts at sign language were wasted. Attempting to describe chicken breasts in Jusco Supermarket using a combo of the birdie dance and inappropriate pointing was met with confusion and frankly an element of fear.
After a couple of weeks spent fumbling in my bag for the set of handy flashcards provided by my Alien Relocation Company, I made an early decision to try and decode the local language. How hard could it be? Yes, to my alien ears it appeared to consist of a maximum of ten words repeated in a different order but, seeing as billions of creatures had mastered it, I was determined.
Fast forward 2.5 years of HSK study and I can now accomplish simple tasks, e.g. buy food or take taxis, with relative ease. Unfortunately, I can't discuss much more with local friends except where to buy food and how best to take taxis, but the HSK study programme has had the unlikely bonus side effect of teaching me some inspiring moral lessons. To illustrate, here are a few examples from the Alien HSK examination:
- Xiao Li only trusts himself, and moreover often distrust others. He, therefore, has few friends.
- In life we are used to walking in a crowd which isn't necessarily wrong. However, by walking on the path less trodden, you will often make more progress.
Cast your mind back to the bar scene in Star Wars Episode IV. Luke Skywalker enters a grungy cantina packed with a bunch of weird looking aliens. Within 3 minutes, he pisses of the barman, narrowly escapes a fight and gets rescued by some unknown friends.
There are some valuable lessons to be learnt from this scene. Firstly, whilst the crowd is clearly made up of aliens they are all from different planets and not necessarily yours. Secondly, before jumping on the first alien you see like an over-enthusiastic puppy, ask yourself a few questions: What is their mission? Are they inter-planetary exiles on the run? Bounty Hunters looking for a quick buck? Or genuine allies...
Remember that the friends you make in the first month will be impossible to avoid for the next 2-3 years (think back to Freshers week at Uni). Select your alien buddies carefully.
Whereas back home you might get lost in a crowd or cross the road to avoid that certain somebody, here you stick out like a flashing beacon. There is no option to avoid, only to outright ignore which could be construed as rude. Unless of course you are both ignoring each other, in which case it's perfectly acceptable.
E.T. Call Home
Do use Skype. I defy any Alien not to love a bit of Skype action to get in touch with those back on the mothership. Yes, sharing your bandwidth with 1.3 billion people makes for a sometimes frustratingly disjointed conversation with a heavily pixelated family member or friend (in fact you can't be quite sure who it is), but that tenuous link can keep you sane.
Don't call my mother. A month into acclimatisation, I called my mother in tears. She cooed and sympathised appropriately having lived as a pioneer Alien in Shanghai back in the 80s. "Don't worry," she said, "things will get easier" she said. As I gradually pulled myself together and the sniffling subsided, she came up with the killer blow. "Guess," she said, "what the highlight of my time in China was?". I thought about it; was it hunting for antiques?… making new friends (who are still friends to this day)?…travelling and seeing amazing new things? "No, no, no, none of that" she tutted. "No, the very best moment was the minute I stepped on the ship to come home and a huge weight just lifted off my shoulders".
Tags:General Language & Culture Expat Rants & Advice Expat Tales Lifestyle
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Mind you we are getting a different perspective on living in China as everybody else works here. Written in a very entertaining style too. Can't imagine myself living here and not working. Might as well be in prison! Ok that was hyperbolesheet!
Oct 27, 2013 17:03 Report Abuse
MissMoo...I like your articles and I really sympathize with the plight of a trailing spouse. There really isn't much to do here if you weren't hired from the west or exceptionally well networked that isn't, well...at least a bit degrading and generally involving unacceptably poor conditions (ESL teaching) or boring ("face" jobs of sitting around being white). It would drive me absolutely crazy going from a life as a career person in the west to sitting around China with nothing to do. And no amount of hired help, luxurious (or at least luxurious-looking, still no insulation and seldom built properly at any price) apartment-life and fancy lunches out can truly replace having a real social network, a clean environment and a sense of purpose in life.
Oct 25, 2013 15:52 Report Abuse