Eavesdropping in Linköping

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Today I went to two hospital appointments to do a health checkup. If I can prove that I’m not carrying anything dangerous I will get a visa that will cover all of the ten months in Taiwan. As a visitor (holding at least a Swedish passport) you are allowed to stay in Taiwan up to three months without any visa. Quite convenient!

After finishing the second part of the testing I went to finish some errands in central Linköping. Meeting Chinese at the streets are getting more and more common here. Mostly exchange students for the University but now and then a middle-aged tourist group will pay our town a visit.

Guess my surprise when I suddenly run into about 50 or 60 schoolkids from China! They were not yet in their teens and chatting happily while strolling down the street. Whenever I meet Chinese folks here at home I just become super happy. My eyes become round with excitement like a little kid and I will always wear a big smile. So I slowed down and walked past them, eager to hear some Mandarin and hear what they would say about our town. Sure they were speaking a lot but I couldn’t make out anything from the crowd. I wished I would get a chance to ask them why they all came here. The group passed by me and disappeared downtown.

When I turned around a corner a restaurant door opened (yes, it was a Chinese restaurant) and three left behind kids from the group walked out. The boys started walking in the wrong direction while asking each other in Chinese where the others went. At exactly the same time I passed them by and now I just couldn’t hold my mouth shut.

After making some tones wrong and trying again I finally got a proper sentence in Chinese out.  “No that’s the wrong direction. Your friends walked that way, just turn right over there.” The boys barely took a second to look at me and just said a polite thank you in English and started to walk after their friends.

It seamed like  Mandarin already got so well-known here that the tourists doesn’t even get surprised to hear their mother tongue! And we are in Linköping, not in a big city or so. But after waking just one more step I heard one of the boys half scream to the others. “But wait! She spoke Putong hua! She spoke Chinese!” While still walking I looked over my shoulder just to see the three little boys having a good laugh. The little incident totally made my day.

It’s been a while since the semester ended and summer offers few chances to practice my Chinese. Instead I just speak with myself, usually in my head or even out loud if I’m alone. So meeting someone else who knows Chinese and even a native is really something exciting. Especially if there is a little moment of sneaky eavesdropping and surprise in it. To my defense I should maybe mention that I will never become a real spy. My poker face doesn’t really work, so to say.

Now let’s look forward to Taiwan! I booked a ticket on September 3, so it’s only a little more than a month to go.

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