Saturday, March 07, 2015


In unfamiliar parts of the planet, we humans are out of place.  Michelle McKinnon-Young and I were in Chicago last weekend to visit my son Michael. It is not a difficult city for an Americans to navigate, since the natives speak English, and the place is laid out on a grid.  Less so for persons from farther away.The weather was very cold, and Lake Michigan was frozen in places.

The tour buses weren’t all running, but we managed to find one after a false start which included a climb down iced over stairs by the river, to a ticket booth which turned out to be closed.
Three quarters of the way through the tour, two Chinese gentlemen boarded. They knew almost no   English and did not speak standard Mandarin. It turned I was the only passenger who knew any 
Chinese, but I’m not really fluent, and their dialect was difficult to follow.  Using the translator app 
on my phone, I managed to let these visitors know they should not give the driver the hundred dollar bill they were waving at him, but should wait ‘til the end of the tour when an agent would board. 

My attempts to translate what the tour guide was saying about Chicago were less successful, but my 
good intentions were appreciated.  We exchanged business cards, a common custom in China when 
people are showing respect, and they took my picture. Then, when Michelle and I were getting off the bus, they gave me to understand that they actually wanted to visit Chicago’s Chinatown.  The driver waived the tour fee, since they’d not been on much of the tour.  I found them a cab, and told the 
driver where they wanted to go.  One of the men attempted to give me one of the several 
hundred dollar bills I saw in his wallet. I told him “bu yao” 不要 (don’t need) and “huanying dao meiguo” (Welcome to America) 欢迎到美国欢迎到美国.

I doubt the man fully realized that a 100 dollar bill is about six times more than 100 yuan, and I doubt I was up to explaining this in Chinese, even with an electronic translator. The cab sped away before I could attempt to tell him.  I can only hope for the best.  

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...