It has been almost a week now. People ask what it’s like here, and the simple answer is that it’s basically like being in Chinatown forever. Learning to get around has been quite the experience: taking the Shenzhen subway (地铁), dealing in RMB, learning native mannerisms. My favorite local verlan so far is how one addresses strangers here when in need of directions or guidance. Rather than saying, “excuse me sir,” you shout something along the lines of “hey beautiful man!” to flatter your way into acquiring some basic knowledge. I CSTM* every time.

yes ma'am!

no thank you sir!
I haven’t spoken English since I have been here. Maybe the occasional “hello” or “thank you” slips, but I have been able to get by nicely with Hakkanese. It’s pretty sweet having people understand your native language. I was timid at first because I thought everyone spoke Mandarin or Cantonese or “White Speak” (a dialect I have not quite yet figured out…some hybrid of Cantonese and Mandarin??), but there are Hakkanese people! 客家民! The language exists! It’s really real! I can communicate with the people around me. Even if they don’t speak Hakka I find that if I just yell what I am saying a little louder they understand me. It’s great!

I have never spoken Hakkanese with people outside of my family. I was so excited and happy I nearly cried when I first spoke 纯客家 with a taxi driver whose last name was also 罗. It was an indescribable feeling. I asked him if he was my brother. He didn’t respond. People can be a little mean in the bustling city of Shenzhen but it's okay, I love them like they are my brethren now.

I call this photo, "propaganda-dot-jpeg"
It has been a little strange switching over from English, in fact this blog is my last line of defense in preventing my forgetting all Western tongue (not really, but kinda really, unless I start talking to myself which I am certainly not above). When I struggle to say something in Hakka, my mind jumps to how I would say it in French. Speak in silent tongues; it’s like there are three switches in my head trying to simultaneously communicate with someone else. Every language however has different structures and idioms that may or may not exist in another. I’ll probably come back with a thick Chinese accent but no matter; I enjoy writing when immersed in other languages. You think more creatively about how you say things.

sorry. had to.
Bonus: my mom’s favorite word in Hakkanese is "baby," sounds something like “ong-ah-lee.” Ongale. A funny flowy sound. Reminds me of “ongles,” or “fingernails” in French (more on fingernails later...). We were talking about this on the bus from Shenzhen to Xingning last night when we were both entertained for hours by a baby sitting in front of us who was dancing, cursing at people, and eating a hot dog, while a weirdly seductive mashup of American rap music videos were playing on the TV screens to the tune of some K-Pop. It gets real weird in China.

*Chuckle Softly To Myself, for those of you who may not know

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