I have just discovered, after a full day of being so proud of myself for jumping in and attempting to speak Chinese from the very first moment I arrived in Taiwan, that I have actually been telling everyone I meet, everywhere, that I have to urinate.
You can imagine my mortification, especially since I didn’t realize this until I’d already spread the word to, oh, probably about half of Taipei. I would have preferred to remain blissfully ignorant, but my traveling partner thought it’d be best to inform me of my linguistic error today after the nice little old Chinese juice lady nearly fainted onto her blender after she handed me my freshly-squeezed beverage. Her friend, another nice little old Chinese juice lady, had immediately covered her mouth in surprise and started giggling in the very sweet and unobtrusive way that Asian ladies seem to do here–polite, soft, and subdued.
At the time, I hadn’t any idea what I’d done: after all, I’d just braved entirely new territory by ordering a fresh fruit juice of, well, everything on the menu (since I couldn’t read the menu, not because I was feeling particularly bold and exciting or anything). Tomatoes, bananas, and strawberries–all horrifically chopped and dumped into a bowl, whirred up in a blender, and handed to me in a paper cup. I’d thought I’ve paved new ground in other ways, boldly sticking the plastic straw into a lumpy concoction of fruits that make the at-home Kristin shudder in disgust (adult selective eater, anyone?). And yet, I turned those tables almost immediately when instead of saying a little thank you, I instead shocked two little old ladies in an off-the-beaten path juice shop by telling them how much I really had to pee.
The secret, I’d later learn, was this: xie-xie is not, as you might think, pronounced she-she. It in, in fact, a bit more like shia-shia (and even that’s not right….). The differences, you see, are somewhat substantial.