October 22, 2009

Bu yao! 不要

The first phrase in Chinese we learn when we stepped off the bus to face China 4 years ago was 不要 bu yao! (Translated: don’t want) We wondered why this phrase was important enough to be the phrase taught by our team leader as we walked toward Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. We soon learned.

Approaching the square, we were bombarded by vendors selling anything from kites, postcards, gloves, photos, to roses. Armed with our new phrase, we toured the sites in peace if you can call repeating bu yao over and over peaceful.

Bu yao works for most but occasionally you’ll meet your match. We met our match in an old lady selling roses on the square in downtown Nanchang. After a couple of bu yao’s, we continued walking on our way. Not to be deterred, she followed us and put the rose in my coat pocket insisting I buy one from her. Another bu yao and some more walking finally convinced her I didn’t wait a rose.

The true version of the story is that she remained unconvinced still. We had to ignore her and let the rose fall out of my pocket onto the ground while walking away faster. Good thing we can walk so fast with our long legs!

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