Chinese Word of the Day:演员
(yǎn yuán) actor or actress; performer
Today we enjoyed one of the perks of being foreigners in China. We had speaking parts in an educational video for the hospitality industry. Our boss at North American College of Jiangnan University set us up with the gig, and we were welcomed to the Nikko five star hotel in downtown Wuxi by Mr. Xu, who has been hired by the tourism department to produce a DVD to go along with an existing text book for hospitality workers.
Since the book is already in print, Mr. Xu did not have the authority to make any changes to any of the lines, which meant that we found ourselves speaking slightly Chinglish phrases with perfect native English accents. Fortunately such phrases were few and not egregious. Mr. Xu kept explaining that he couldn’t make any changes, obviously embarrassed by being forced to follow the text of the book exactly.
It was fun being a actors for a day. And not just extras moved around like furniture. We had actual speaking parts. Mind you, the lines were hard to make a meal out of. Just how dramatic can one be with “I’d like to check in, please.” The most challenging part of the performance was juggling props, such as filling out a registration form for which no time had been allowed in the dialogue exchange.
For the afternoon we moved to a local radio station office building and sat in a sound proof room to record interminable audio of simple phrases like “I’m always at your service” and “You’re so kind. Thank you.”. By the end of this marathon session the thrill was definitely wearing off and I was back to working for the money. Fortunately, the money was not bad for China. Unfortunately we worked so efficiently that we were finished by 3:30pm and had to forfeit a third of the money, plus the free dinner, we were expecting to make by working a full day. Shallow grounds for complaint.
It was raining when we finished the recording session. Our sound man gave us a ride to the Blue Bar where we enjoyed a couple of tropi colladas and handed out one more of Panda’s brochures to a nice gentleman named Ed, the only other patron sitting at the bar. That took us to 5:00pm and the time in Wuxi when it is impossible to hail a cab even if it isn’t raining, so we walked in the Scotch mist to another Starbucks and I swilled lattes until the cab shift change was finished and we could head for home.
This time we lucked into a cab driver who didn’t know where the university is. Ruth showed him the map in her iPad and he spent several minutes talking to his dispatcher, or maybe just a friend, and we were away. On the way home we practised “Gongxi Gongxi” the Chinese song we will sing at Joey’s wedding tomorrow, much to the amusement of our driver.
It’s not an exciting life, but it has variety and we do keep busy.