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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Ok? Good? How much? Where’s the bathroom?…..Communication

Today, we were given tasks to complete while exploring Shangri La. We started at a hair salon, where Murray attempted to get a hair wash, but ended up blindly accepting whatever service they offered.  After continuously asking for a receipt in Mandarin (Shou Chu), it was obvious that the receptionist had no clue what we were trying to say. Finally, after consulting google translate, we were able to get a receipt from the receptionist. To us, the difference between the way that google translate pronounced receipt and the way we did was indecipherable. This was our first experience of many where our incompetence in Mandarin prevailed. We left the salon and walked to purchase a few souvenirs, part of the scavenger hunt. Although we thought we were communicating well when we asked for the price, it was obvious that the sellers had little to no clue what we were asking for.  Again, when we asked for the receipt, we were met with blank stares from the sellers. We ended up taking out the amount of money we thought the object was worth, and handed it to the seller.  Next, we walked into a music store where one of the employees was playing a kettle drum.  We attempted to charade to the employee that we wanted to learn how to play, and once again the employee had no clue what we were attempting to communicate. After sitting down and trying to imitate the employee, he finally got the idea and tried to teach us what he could. Overall, we learned that just because a word is spelled a certain way, and pronounced a certain way, that doesn’t necessarily translate into real speech. Most of the time, it actually translates into massive amounts of confusion.