Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In the Chinese humor post, Jo-Anne and some others asked what it was that I did that managed to make my new Chinese friend laugh. What I did not only made her laugh, but a large group of Chinese people as well. So here's the story.

My tablemates on the Yangtse River Cruise I took in April were two Egyptian-American doctors, a retired couple from Scotland and a mother and son from Newark, New Jersey. There was one other group of foreigners, a table of 10 Swedes. The other 150 passengers were all Chinese.

At lunch on the second day, Jeri, our "cruise director" (for lack of a better term) who I had become friendly with, informed us that each table would have to put on a performance in that evening's talent show.

She asked us what we would do and would we need anything. Jeri's English was pretty good and if I spoke evenly and simply with some Mandarin mixed in she understood most of what I said. There was another cruise director, Michael, whose spoken and written English was almost flawless. As I formulated my plan I knew that at some point Jeri and Michael would meet to discuss my requests. After some mumbling and discussion at our table, we decided we would put on a small variety show with some jokes and songs.

Jeri was very pleased to hear we would be so ambitious and asked what we would need. I started to tell her and with each request the looks of shock and stifled laughter from my tablemates and the look of cluelessness on her face, increased.

She said to me "You need a line? I don't understand how we get a line." I said "Jeri, give me your pen and paper and I will write down what we need."

So I started writing.

1 lion

2 bears

1 motorcycle

1 donkey

and a midget.

"Thank you Mr. Michael, I will get started right away on all this." "Okay Jeri" I said. "But its really important we have these items, or no show." With a very serious and determined look on her face she started off.

I retired to my cabin after lunch to lay down.

Ten minutes later there was a loud rapping at my door so I got up off the bed and opened it

And there was Jeri, hands on her hips, eyes boring into me, mouth pursed tight. "You very bad man Mr. Michael, very bad." Then she hit me. And then she started cracking up, and so did I. We had tears in our eyes for 10 minutes.

Sure enough, as soon as she had left our table she went to Cruise Director Michael and showed him the list. Apparently he had a good laugh over it.

When the story was repeated for the audience that night they too laughed very hard.

And Jeri, well, she wanted some more American humor.