"Ni hao," the ladies at our daily breakfast stopped called out as I walked up.
"Ni hao. Liang ge tsai bao," I reply ordering one of our regular breakfast items (liang = 2 and ge is a measure word used for indicating a number of something). This one is a steamed bun with some meat, veggies and bamboo inside. The tsai bao is already prepared and quickly put into multiple bags for us. No matter how much we try to ask for less plastic, each item gets crammed into a small plastic bag.
Please don't be fooled by the rudimentary Chinese above. I know little. Very little Chinese. For my class' science lesson I needed a hard-boiled egg - yep, we're starting plate tectonics. Eggs feature prominently on our breakfast rotation and I knew how to ask for one. "Wo yao yi ge dan." (I would like one egg.)
I anticipated her next move of grabbing an egg and cracking it over the hot griddle and the try to understand what I'm saying dance began. "Bu." (my attempt to say no). She looks at me oddly and puts the egg up. I ask for it again. She move to crack it. No. I attempt to gesture that I want the egg given to me but am not getting my point across. I ask again and as she is about to crack it open, I grab it out of her hands. Smiling a lot, I indicate that the uncooked egg is what I want. She looks as if I am truly an alien in her world and asks another lady what I should be charged. The lady just laughs uncontrollably and indicates that I can have the silly egg.