Living in a small Chinese provincial suburb it shouldn't come as a surprise that there wasn't a good English book shop. Consequently, I squeal with delight (inside at least) when I discovered that there was a whooping great bookstore (with a good sized English section) in the big city (Ningbo) down the road. Part of me has been getting excited all week. I know I'm a bit pathetic when I say things like that, but what can I say, I am what I am.
Anyway I arrived there today. I wandered round for a while looking for this English section with an increasing sense of doom. I really couldn't find this section. I wandered round for maybe 20mins, getting more and more depressed.
After a while I went up to this guy who works there. I knew he worked there because he had a badge that said "Book City 5031 I speak English" on it. I wanted to find this section, but was getting agitated because I couldn't. The conversation went something like this:
"Hello, do you speak English?" (always good to check, save time later I find)
"Yes I speak English I have studied it in school." (he looked like your typical university student).
So far so good you might think, but the conversation went left into surreal-dom immediately afterward:
"Do you have English books?"
"No I do not have any English books, it has been 2 years since I have studied English."
At this my brain started misfiring. Did he really think I was coming here to get books from him personally, and if he did, was I going to round to his flat to pick them up now? The conversation continued:
"No what I mean is do you sell books written in English?"
"No it is my job to help people who speak English hear" (ok lets try this another way)
"Are there English books?" (gesturing to the store)
"Yes there are books by William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, William Blake" (seeing where this might go I asked...)
"Are they written in English?" (still gesturing madly at the store)
"No those books are written in Chinese."
"Are there books written in English?"
"Yes there are books written in English." (I stood there waiting till I realised that holy poop he's telling me there are books written in English, because, of course, I've never seen them before)
"Are there books written in English in the store?" (you know what's coming don't you...)
"Yes, there are books written in English in the store." (more waiting before I realise that nope he's not planning on telling me where they are)
"Where are they?"
"Not on this floor" (Inside I was thinking yes you said that earlier)
"Ok so where are they?"
I know I'm in a foreigner in a foreign land, but come on, really.