Friday, 9 March 2018

Marital bliss: 6 (London)

American John was doing his PhD at SSEES (School of Slavonic and East European Studies), University of London, when he started going out with Brazilian Celia who was doing Japanese at SOAS.

She'd call him gringo*, he said, never John.

One night, he was woken up by her shaking him, "John!  John!  Wake up, John!"

He said, "I knew I was in trouble when she started calling me John."

Sure enough, she's just had a dream in which he was kissing another woman, and was very angry with him.

(London 1980s)

*gringo | ˈɡrɪŋɡəʊ | noun (plural gringos) informal (in Spanish-speaking countries and contexts, chiefly in the Americas) a person, especially an American, who is not Hispanic or Latino.  ORIGIN Spanish, literally ‘foreign, foreigner, or gibberish’.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Idiotic behaviour (Singapore)

When I eventually got a word in, I said to the man from Mauritius, “You still haven’t answered my question about how you met Doreen Yip.  What’s the relevance of her being an insurance broker to how you met?”

It turned out that they were both standing in the queue for the cable car to go over to Sentosa Island.  He was feeling very nervous.  Doreen Yip said, “You look very tense.”  He said, “Yes, I’m very nervous about going on the cable car.”  She said, “There was one incident* when the cable broke, the car dropped into the water, and some people died.”

*Sentosa Cable Car Accident, 29 January 1983


NB: Doreen Yip is not her real name

Sanity-challenging conversations: 6 (London)

I asked the man from Mauritius how he’d met Doreen Yip.  

His answer: “She is an insurance broker.  She took me around Singapore, showed me all the sights.  XX Hotel.  Orchard Road.  Even invited me home to meet her family.  They were really nice to me.”

(London 2018)

NB: Doreen Yip is not her real name

Sanity-challenging conversations: 5 (London)

The Indian man in the library turned out to be from Mauritius.

He asked me where I was from.  When told “Singapore”, he broke into a smile and said he’d been to Singapore a number of times and loved the place.

I asked him if he had any friends in Singapore, he said, “Yes.  A lady called Doreen Yip.”  I nodded in acknowledgement.  He repeated the name, as if I hadn’t heard.  I nodded again, saying, “Yes, I heard you the first time.”  He said it a third time, spelling it out this time, as if I needed it spelt out as well.

It later occurred to me that Indians shake their heads when they mean “Yes”, so perhaps that’s why my nodding my head did not get interpreted correctly.

NB:  Doreen Yip is not her real name.

(London 2018)

Sanity-challenging conversations: 4 (London)

As I stood up to leave the library, an Indian man at the same table commented on how cold it was in the library.  (It was one of the coldest days for the last decade, with the cold front — nicknamed The Beast from the East — descending on the UK, apparently triggered by a heatwave in the Arctic area.)  I said I agreed with him, adding that I was surprised that with so many people in the library, their body warmth wasn’t generating more heat.  He repeated his statement, as if he hadn’t heard.  Huh??  I’d already agreed with him, and he couldn’t not have heard, as I’d said a whole lot of sounds, not just a one-word “Yes”.  Anyway, I repeated my comment, but he carried on saying how cold it was in the library, as if I didn’t see his point and he wanted to convince me that it was indeed the case.

(London 2018)

Sanity-challenging conversations: 3 (London)

While I was cooking for Mrs Ting, she took a call.  It was from a prospective part-time carer, from Singapore, recommended by a friend of hers.  I heard Mrs Ting giving her directions to get to her place:  go to XX Tube station on the Northern line.  

Mrs Ting’s English is extremely rudimentary (even after 50 years in London), and her pronunciation of English words/names doesn’t always match the original.   Her Chinese (be it Mandarin, Cantonese, or the Teochew dialect) is also not always comprehensible, being a mixture of all three at times.  

After saying it over and over again to the caller, Mrs Ting passed the phone to me, for me to tell the caller.

This is the exchange that took place.

Me:  Take the Tube to XX station on the Northern line.  Turn right when you leave the station, and walk towards …

Caller:  What’s her house number?

Me:  Let me finish the directions first.  Turn right when you leave XX station, walk about 100 metres down the road towards YY supermarket.  She lives in a block opposite the supermarket.  The block is called ZZ Court.  (I then spelt out ZZ Court slowly for her.)  Her flat number is AA.

Caller:  Her flat number is AA.

Me:  That’s right, flat number AA.

Caller:  What’s her flat number?

Me:  I’ve already told you, you’ve read it back to me, and I’ve confirmed that it’s correct.

Caller:  Oh, the phone line is not very clear.

Me:  But you did hear it correctly, because you repeated it back to me correctly, and I’d also said it was correct.

I passed the phone back to Mrs Ting, who then went on to arrange a time for the caller to come along for the interview, and I went back to my cooking.

A minute later, the phone rang again.  This time, it was the friend who’d recommended the prospective carer.  The friend asked for the flat number again, with the same reason: the prospective carer’s phone line wasn’t clear.

(London 2018)

Sanity-challenging conversations: 2 (London)

Mrs Ting (88 years old), whom I hadn’t seen for four years, suddenly rang me on Saturday to wish me a Happy Chinese New Year, then proceeded to tell me she’d been in pain from her crooked back and the resultant imbalance of body weight placed on her legs.  I immediately said I’d go the following Wednesday and give her a massage, and cook lunch for her.

I’d met Mrs Ting about six years ago, through a Malaysian woman, Mei Ling, who lives down the road from her.  I’d been giving Mei Ling back massages on and off, as well as doing her gardening — all for free.  Mei Ling then asked if I could do Mrs Ting’s bad back as well.

As I was preparing lunch for Mrs Ting, she asked if she could tell Mei Ling that I was visiting her.  This is the exchange:

Me:  Why not?
Mrs Ting:  I wasn't sure if I should.
Me:  Why do you feel you shouldn’t tell Mei Ling?  What’s wrong with my visiting you?
Mrs Ting:  I don’t know if it’ll be right to tell her.
Me:  Why should you think it might not be right to tell her?
Mrs Ting:  I don’t know if I should tell her, that’s why I’m asking you.
Me:  Yes, you’ve already said that bit.  What I’m asking is the “why”: why should you worry about telling her?
Mrs Ting:  That’s why I’m asking you if it’ll be all right.
Me:  I’ve understood that bit.  I just want to know why you should think it might not be right to tell her, that’s all.
Mrs Ting:  I don’t know if it’ll be right to, so I thought I should ask you first.

At that point, I just gave up.

PS: “Mrs Ting” and “Mei Ling” are not their real names.

(London 2018)