The Power of Words

It’s one of the few words that I know in Chinese. If you pronounce it correctly, you’ll be saying thank you. If you pronounce it wrong, you’ll be saying anything but. 

The word is xie-xie, 谢谢.

The sound alike is 吃屎 chī shǐ which means, eat shit.

Hopefully, I got my tones correct.

I had a few over-due thanks to make this week.

The first are a plethora of letters I am still mailing to friends in the USA who fed me burgers, let me snooze on their couches, or treated me to wine without screw tops.

Xie xie!

But China Post no longer allows me to put my own stamps on my letters. This country still has stamps without the stick so the postal worker will hand you rubber cement which you apply with a chop stick.  

So, if you haven’t received your letter yet, it’s probably stuck to a package going to the Maldives. 

 

My second overdue-thanks goes to the street side seamstress in the Old Quarter of Kunming. Her Singer is a five-minute walk from a sleek Starbucks but a fifty-year throwback in time. A few weeks ago, I gave her  a few hand-stitched patches from the Red Zhou women of Sapa, Vietnam. And just like that fairy godmother and mice in Cinderella, with a little bippdity-boppity-boo, she transformed it into a funky purse. I knew it was pretty cool when the school principal, a Southern fashionista, gave it a thumbs up.

I thanked her on a day where the traffic was as thick as the smells because it was Chinese Valentines Day.

 

Carts of fresh flowers were on every corner, the fragrance choked by the stinky dofu cart, which is the only smell I cannot tolerate.  Trust me, there’s a lot of weird ones.

Her cart was next to the potato lady. She takes phone payments and so does God. If you go to  Chinese State “Three-Self Church“,  you can pay tithes by swiping the QR code with your phone.

Since it was Monsoon season, traffic was gridlock except for the Meituan-fast food delivery guys. They do not honk or hollar “on your left” when they buzz by.  If I die in traffic, it’s because someone wants their kung pao chicken NOW.

There was someone else I wanted to thank. My bike guy. He’s missing three fingers on his right hand. I try not to stare but I can’t help it. He fixed my flat but had to go to a different shop to get a new tire. Get this:  he trusted me to wait at his shop without him. Price of a new bike tire in China? Seven bucks.

There was one more thank you –but this one was for me.

I was invited to a Japanese birthday party, which was actually more of a ceremony than a party because everyone had to wear blue and the only thing I had that met the dress code was my sports bra, which I wore under a skimpy shirt that hung off my shoulders. A former student was there, one whose name and face I actually remembered. Her eyes lit up when she saw my blue strap sticking out.

“Your really impacted me,” she started. “I ended up studying marketing at college. Xie-xie.”

I blinked a few times. Did she just thank me for getting into advertising…or did she mean the sound alike word? No one thanks us for pop-up ads or bathroom breaks during the Super Bowl.

But this student’s words really impacted me. 

Hopefully, you don’t have to apply stamps with chopsticks or almost get plowed over by a food delivery guy to thank someone who made a difference.

So spread the word. They won’t get lost in translation, unless of course, you get them printed on a shirt. What is agrahzny vonny bum  anyway?

If you want to see more of Chinese traffic, click below.