Friday, April 16, 2010

The Quest for Mickey D's!

I have been here now for 16 days. Other than the pizza I had last Saturday (which was average), and some spaghetti I made one night (with basically ketchup for sauce), I have eaten nothing but Chinese food 3 meals a day. Now don't get me wrong: I LOVE good Chinese food. But the same stuff every meal, every day get's OLD. SO, today I decided I had enough- I HAD to find some good American food, and had to have some soon! And what's better than the icon of American food but McDONALD'S! That's right, Mickey D's was on my radar, and I wasn't going to stop till I had it! So, I just had to come up with a plan...

The plan itself was quite easy, actually. I leave the campus, hail a taxi, and proceed downtown and walk around a but till I found it. BUT, I keep forgetting the one roadblock- I DON'T speak Chinese! So with a little thought and effort, here is how the day went down:

9:50am- Left my apartment and walked 5 minutes till I passed through the campus gates.

9:55am- Hailed a taxi to the city, no problem. I had my translator, Scottie, write me a note the night in Mandarin that said two things: Hello, please drive me to a certain area downtown, and Hello, please drive me to the Sports Institute and the address. This letter works like a charm!

10:30am- After a bit of traffic and construction, I arrive at my drop off point downtown. I don't know where the McDonalds is from here, but I am somewhat familiar where I am dropped off, so I started from there. The walk begins...

11:00am- After a while in the Carrefour (a kind of Walmart store), I started down the street in search for the golden arches...

11:15am-I pass a KFC, then a Pizza Hut, and feel that I MUST be getting close! Never saw a McD's, but DID find a Starbucks! BIG POINTS! I walk in and ask the barista if he spoke English, "Very Rittle" was good enough for me! He said it was further down the street 2 kilometers, which I figured to be not too far, so off I went.

11:30am- After a short walk and a few pictures of the city, I come across this HUGE building with 2 signs in front, both having the Golden Arches on it, and a bunch of Chinese writing underneath. Had I finally reached my destination? I walk in the large building which looked more like an office building than any kind of shopping center. After getting stared down by the class of school kids as I walked by, I proceeded to stop the security guard and locate my lunch. "McDonalds" I say, being sure to enunciate slowly and clearly. He repeats my words, then motions me to follow him. My heart rate quickens as I can smell the fries every step I take. Or is that just my brain jumping the gun? He leads me to a huge board that has all these businesses name and points to the 11th floor and nods as I say "THAT'S McDonalds?" So figuring that China may have now impressed me even more by having a 11th floor McD's, I take the elevator to the 11th floor. While in the elevator, I'm thinking to myself "Noo, there just CAN'T be a McDonald's in this building", and as that thought hit, I hear a "ding" and the door opens". I will admit I was crossing my fingers as I took a few steps out of the elevator, totally expecting to see a huge playground with dozens of happy Chinese children sliding, swinging, and playing gleefully on the McDonalds playground, as well as a line of happy patrons with money in their hands and gleems in their eyes. Instead, I see this: "McMillan English Language School". My heart pained and my stomach twisted as I sought the nearest window to jump out of. "How? How could this man dupe me like this? I said McDonalds, and he repeated it! How could someone, even with no English knowledge, get that wrong?" I knew I would never know the answer, but proceeded to the lady standing outside the door. "Do you speak English?", I asked, which I should now just go ahead and make into a t-shirt so English speaking people can seek ME out. Of course, the answer was no. "McDonald's" I said pleadingly, as if I really thought that was going to magically break the language barrier and make her understand my needs and desires. A shrug confirmed the worst. I went back downstairs, and left the building, dejected. Had I gotten so close, but can't find it just because of this language? Then a lightbulb went off in my head! I walked back outside to the McDonald's sign, and with my trusty camera, took a picture of the Golden Arches. I then walked BACK inside the building to find my "friend" the security guard. He smiled at me, like he had saved my day by showing where the language school was. Not quite, my dear Chang. I showed him the picture I just took, he looks at it for a moment, then in the clearest English- "OHHH, McDonalds!!" I wish a had a picture of me in that moment, I'm sure it would have been a keeper. We walk back outside, and he gestures down the street. I would once again start walking.

11:45am- I pass a foreign bookstore, which I decide to walk in and check out for a few minutes. Pretty cool place, I pass through aisles of books, cd, etc in French, German, and Spanish. I didn't know if I should laugh or look for the Chinese Candid Camera when I came to the aisles of my native tongue, which simply read on the sign- "Crazy English". Now I know that lots of our language is silly, but crazy? C'mon...

12:00pm- I walk just a bit past the bookstore, and what do I see on the next corner?? Could it be??

12:05pm- Salvation, I have arrived! I was giddy like a child before Christmas morning. I walked in, and immediately checked out the menu board- let's see, Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Fish Filet's...yes, it's ALL here!! I walked to the counter, was greeted in Chinese which I totally ignored as I listened to the harmonious beeping of the french fry vats. I chose to enjoy a Big Mac Value Meal, my personal favorite. She nods, and proceeds to hold up both hands, as to simulate showing me the size of a large fish she just caught on a boat "YES, SUPER-SIZE IT!", I shouted as I clapped my hands together quickly. It's funny, language doesn't blur the meaning of such things as that. I gave her my money, which converted to dollars was a mere $2.30. I got my meal, sat down, and opened the package. JUST like home-the smell, the taste, the enjoyment...

12:30pm- I left McDonald's in a state of utter satisfaction. It was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. My mission was complete, my stomach was happy.

12:35pm- I hailed a taxi back to the Sports Institute. As I sat in the back seat slipping into a processed food coma, I smiled as I thought upon my day. All was right with the world.

Pictures from my journey are now posted on my Flickr page, which is on the left side of this blog page...

I leave for our National Championships Monday, and will be gone for 9 days. It will be the first opportunity to see my swimmers compete, and I am looking forward to it. I am taking my laptop, but don't know what to expect regarding internet, so this may be my last post for a while. But I will definitely take pictures and will report to you all when I return.

Have a great weekend!

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