Last year I was visiting China with my mother and father. My father was presenting at an international conference (highly televised in China) and while he was working all week, my mother and I set about exploring Beijing. We saw the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Olympic Stadium (to name a few).
It was very fun to visit China, but I struggled with the most basic of words. I even had difficulty pronouncing thank you without someone giving me an odd side eye. Mostly, we just got around by pointing to things on maps, gesturing wildly, and giving blank, but friendly, smiles.
One day, we were struggling to find food. We had spent the morning in a sort of underground shopping center, which had only one food court. We tried to order food there, but ended up in the center of a big commotion where complete strangers that understood snippets of English tried to help us by indicating that we needed a special kind of card in order to buy food.
We were unable to communicate that we had no idea where to get such a card and ultimately gave up and wandered out into the street, stomachs rumbling. My mother pointed out a small corner store and we dashed in. Behind the counter, there were big steaming pots of different kinds of soups, with photos next to them and big black Chinese characters (which we couldn’t read).
Everything smelled delicious, so we pointed at random and the man behind the counter (who spoke not a word of English) pointed and we smiled and nodded and handed him some cash. At this point, my mother was so excited to get food that (even though we had no idea what was in it), she exclaimed loudly, “Ohh, yeah!”
The man behind the counter, clearly entertained by our excited antics, mimicked her perfectly, “Ohh, yeah!” he cried back twice. I fell about laughing as my mother gathered the food. We could still hear him repeating it as we left through the door.