This is a clip from a post (Dec 2011) from a blog I had in 2011. goeastoldwoman.blogspot.com about my attempts to return to teaching in China after several years. Reading past posts Coffee seems to have played an important role to maintaining my sanity. (I cannot believe I let so many errors escape me.)Most likely a result of being afraid I would lose my internet connection at any moment. No photos, no fancy phone then. I was even using pay phones and a landline at times!
The following was how I finally managed to have a real cup of coffee after a couple of weeks drinking garbage instant.
Written Dec 10/11 (edited Dec 27/18)
UBC (also the name of a university in Vancouver, Canada so I was feeling hopeful – I had also been to UBC in other cities years before) usually has two floors, where food, coffee, tea and fancy juices are served – it is never very busy. The menu was in Chinese and English. Of course this is where things started to become confusing. I just wanted a cup of coffee, with milk. Forget trying to say cream. In Taiyuan when people say they only speak a little English they mean it – hello, coffee, bye-bye – are often all I can get out of anyone. The fact I use passable Chinese for very simple requests makes everyone assume I must be fluent. Perhaps all foreigners here (Taiyuan) are.
First they ascertained I did want to be on the second floor. Then I chose where I would sit. Next, order yi bei kafei; wo yao niu nai. One coffee; I want milk. Except this simple request resulted in about 5 minutes of mass confusion. Did I want cold coffee with milk? No, I want hot coffee, and milk. Did I want hot coffee and hot milk? No, just a little milk. Ah, did I want one cup of coffee and one cup of milk? By this time I had resorted to trying to over-explain, in Chinese, when it dawned on me to be more explicit with actions rather than words. Remember, all this was in Chinese – except for the few words of English from me when I was at a loss to explain all I wanted was a little cream to put in my coffee to stir and drink. Then it dawned on me – I asked for a little cup of milk, but this time showed the size I meant. Presto, the girl ran over to the counter where she kept all her spoons, tissue (they do not use napkins here) and whatnot, pulled out a creamer and presented it to me with a flourish. Feeling triumphant I was just about to say thank you when she asked if I wanted sugar in my coffee! An emphatic no. When the coffee finally arrived, from the first floor, it was delivered on a tray, the cup sitting beside the saucer. Except the server seemed to be waiting for something – perhaps he was unsure to whom this one little cup of coffee should go to? After all, everyone else had their coffees – I assume they were having coffee. I beckoned him over, do they not know it is dangerous to get between a foreigner and her coffee? He did not budge, just looked a little scared and helpless, maybe he did know – ah, the upstairs girl had to put the cup on the saucer and present the spoon to said saucer before taking the whole in hand and making a presentation of my coffee to me. With another creamer. Despite the ice cold cream hitting the very hot coffee and coming close to curdling, I used both creamers. It was a decent cup of coffee – or I was just so desperate by then I did not know better. I am discovering that coffee in the evening is good for the soul – at least in Taiyuan it is.