Monday, February 21, 2011

T+20: Return to China

I’m finally back in Shanghai. In fact, I felt I was back in Shanghai the minute I boarded that China Eastern flight at JFK. People were pushing and shoving, talking loudly in the aisles while others around them were trying to sleep. And the lady across the aisle kept spitting into the vomit bag the whole flight – I was wondering if maybe she too recently had an SLAD/R operation and had excess phlegm that she needed to part with. They should outfit those planes with the suction devices I used at the hospital. Better yet, they should outfit all of China with them. But enough China bashing, I’m getting off topic and there are plenty of good things about China too.  (If you want to read more about China, and my tales as a reluctant expat in Shanghai, you can do so at: www.shanghaied.asia.)

Stepping aboard China Eastern is
like already being back in China
However, the guy who sat next to me on the flight wasn’t one of them. He spoke Mandarin with a funny accent that I had trouble understanding. And because of the airplane noise, he could barely understand me. Since he noticed that I had a watch, for the last 11 hours of the 15 hour flight, he asked me every 30 minutes how much longer until we land. It seemed that we would never land, but eventually we did. That was sort of a microcosm of what I’m going through now with my voice. It seems that the next several months will never pass. But, of course, they will. And just as sure as I’m back in Shanghai now, I will soon have a strong and spasm-free voice.

As an aside, I do speak a fair bit of Mandarin Chinese, and found that my spasmodic dysphonia was always worse when trying to speak this non-native language than it was when speaking English.

It’s been a long journey, in many respects. In retrospect it wasn’t that bad, but I’m relieved that the hardest part is behind me. Now all I have to do is wait and be patient, which is not easy, because I’m not a patient person.

In one regard, it’s easier to be voiceless in China than in the US. I can just point to things in shops and they’ll just assume that I'm a dumb foreigner that doesn't speak Chinese instead of assuming that I just don’t speak.

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