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March 31, 2014 / windlessly

China Chronicles 3.30- Asking a Girl Out

Just kidding! But it definitely felt like it:

My heart was pounding and I was a little short of breath as I pushed through the crowd. I was focused intently on what I was about to say. Should I come off as confident and aggressive? Shy but sweet? Maybe a touch of nonchalance? I made eye contact briefly but then ducked my head. No, I had to think it through more before I made my approach. What would my first line even be? I passed by and just kept on walking, butterflies fluttering. I never thought that I’d be so nervous to speak a few lines of Chinese that I knew so fluently. The Nanluoguxiang hutong was dark but illuminated by various store signs and dimly lit lanterns. A constant flow of people walked by in the narrow alley, an eclectic bunch ranging from tourist groups to natives, old men in tank tops smoking cigarettes to women dressed up in fancy clothes and sunglasses. I can do this. I turned and steeled myself for the conversation to come. 

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No, I wasn’t asking a girl out. But I was trying to barter for one of these guys in the photo above. Bartering or haggling is such an interesting part of the culture here that I haven’t fully explored. It takes a certain personality and practice to be able to do it well, both things that I lack very much. I’m feel like I’m way too nice! I don’t like arguing with sellers and I certainly don’t enjoy offending them. But I was surprised at how nervous I was to even attempt doing any sort of persuasive talking… and I knew that it was a negative feedback loop: the less confident I seemed, the more it would hurt my chances of striking any sort of deal, which in turn would lower my confidence even more. 

But at least I tried. I reallllly wanted to get one of these crocheted plants from Plants vs Zombies to give as a gift to my brother, or at least someone who was really bad at watering their plants. But the lowest they would go from 55 yuan ($9-$10 US) was 50 yuan, which I decided in the end was still too expensive. It was still quite the heart-pounding experience… just like preparing to ask a girl out. There’s the whole convincing-yourself-to-do-it part. And then the realization that it can only end in 1 of 2 ways, either sealing the deal or walking away empty-handed. And you have to be ready to face rejection, otherwise it undermines your whole opportunity before you even begin.

So yeah, I’ll definitely work on my smooth-talking over the course of this quarter, and perhaps work on my observation skills to know how to talk to sellers in a way that will get me a good deal. Or at least not ripped off, the ultimate test for foreigners trying to shop in a market dominated by savvy locals. The hutong alleyway that we explored was still a ton of fun, though. 

I didn’t do much earlier in the day. Except maybe buy a gym membership and work out for the first time in a long while. It was much needed after a couple days of amazing food in copious amounts. For Stanford students back home: appreciate Arrillaga gym every chance you get. It is NICE. (and the new gym is even better, so I hear). I didn’t realize how awesome it was to have a free and accessible gym to workout in until I came here. Even at Peking University, the top liberal arts college in all of China, gym memberships are pricey and the facilities are not nearly as nice as the ones we have back at Stanford. It was smelly and cramped and… not free. I suppose paying the fee is one way to get me motivated to go back again though. I’m super excited to eventually play some badminton with the PKU students here. 

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After a shower and a quick subway transfer (so cheap and so effortless to use the subway for 2 yuan per travel), we went to Nanluoguxiang hutong (narrow alleyway filled with shops) for fried chicken cutlet, boba, mojitos, cream puffs, fries, shaobing, and sausage, among other things. It was a lot of fun, and I had my first experience with bartering! I failed pretty badly but that just means I’ll get more chances to improve in the future. 

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The highlight of our night was getting to sit on a 2nd story balcony of a restaurant, waiting half an hour for food that never came, and then having to leave because we realized that subway trains stop running at 11pm. We did get a pretty good selfie out of it though, courtesy of Rachel’s innate talent

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One Comment

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  1. textangel / Apr 22 2014 3:52 am

    literally love this post zheng

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