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My English not very good

Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff  August 20, 2008 04:16 AM

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After the USA men's basketball team blew out Spain recently, the majority of the Spaniards wanted nothing to do with the American media. Considering how Spain got drilled after expecting to be competitive against the U.S. and the racially insensitive ad its players were recently involved in depicting themselves as stereotypically Chinese by making their eyes slanted, it was probably best that they kept their mouths shut.

But Spain guard Juan Carlos Navarro, formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies, did come out to talk to the Spanish media for about five minutes in the mixed zone interview area. After he was done with his home country folks, I asked him a question. He responded by saying, “My English not very good.”

I told him, “Well, it was really good when you were playing for the Grizzlies. I interviewed you once by your locker.”

Navarro was stunned when I called him out and I could see that he understood every word. If they beat the Americans, I’m sure his English would have been better than mine.

I must admit, I was in tears during the down moments of the USA women’s volleyball victory over Italy on Tuesday night. A Chinese dance team comprising of men and women came out and did one dance routine giving tribute to playing the game of volleyball. The other was in funky hip-hop fashion. The men were particularly awful, but seemed to be having a great time smiling and grooving in the process. They reminded me of when Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri played the Spartan cheerleaders in the old Saturday Night Live Skit, but ten times funnier.

It’s always interesting to go to different sporting events across America to test the different cuisine at different stadiums. Just last month I had a great grilled bratwurst at a Chicago Cubs game. So what type of food do they have for the hungry fans in Beijing at the Olympics? Cold hot dog in a bag. A giant helping of Peach yogurt (which is actually tasty). Popcorn in a movie tub that didn’t come out a hot popper. Spicy rice cake snacks. Pringles. Snickers. Ritz crackers. Ramen-like noodles with beef put in hot water. If you’re going to come to an Olympic event, I suggest you get something to eat before you get here.

I was told by several people before I came to Beijing that trading Olympics pins is a big deal here. They actually have people on the sidewalk outside the Main Press Center at the Olympics sitting on the ground that do nothing but trade pins all day with people from all over the world. Unfortunately for us Globe writers, the only thing we were given were ink pens. The pin enthusiasts didn’t seem interested in those.

Riding a cab in Beijing is an adventure. And they don’t call them cabs, rather taxis. These tiny cars look like the ones that fit 20 midget clowns at circus. I don’t know how many times I saw my life flash before my eyes while a bus seemed to be coming in my direction or after two taxis nearly came to blows. Also, humans don’t have the right a way here. Buses and cars do. So if you get hit by a bus or a car, it’s your fault partner. Amazingly, there are few very accidents.

The China Daily newspaper is definitely very PG. There will be nothing bad said about China in the publication’s here, guaranteed. Remember when the U.S. men’s volleyball coach’s wife’s father was stabbed to death at the beginning of the Olympics? The next day it was about a six paragraph story with bare minimum information in the China Daily. Sad. No public apology to the family either.

China's State Television CCTV has its own brand of ESPN SportsCenter-type show that seems more The View than sports news. While one athlete was being interviewed, there was some sad music being played in the background. I asked a Chinese person nearby why the sad music was playing. They answered, “Because he is telling an emotional story.”

Chinese from China that I have asked about Chinese food in American said they have never heard of a fortune cookie, orange chicken, crab rangoon and sweet and sour pork. I feel like I’ve been hoodwinked back in the States for a long time. But I do appreciate not getting chicken with the head still on the plate back home as is the case here and a dish called fish that tastes like pork.

If you do come to Beijing, you must go to the Silk Market for entertainment purposes. For Californians, it’s kind of like going to the swap meet. I’m 6-foot-7 and a big dude, and they swear they got some jeans and T-shirts that fit me. If I have to go to Rochester Big & Tall to get my gear outside the Natick Mall back home rather than get something inside the Natick Mall, I’m sure I can’t get things here where the average dude is about 5-5 and 120 pounds. But they tried to trick me into buying something any way. I must admit, I got hoodwinked on an 80GB IPod that I bought for the same price I could have bought it in Boston. I did get hooked up on an MP4 camera with HD video, music and games that isn’t being sold in the U.S. yet. The lady thought ESPN’s George Smith, Boston Globe assistant sports editor Gregory Lee and myself were famous after they saw the word “NBA” on my business card. I told them George was a big TV star back home, which he is, and that Lee was USA forward Tayshaun Prince. They gave me a discount on the camera phone after we signed a couple T-shirts.

One woman also went ballistic on me when I told her I didn’t want to buy a scarf. She told me she was upset and she would cry if I didn’t buy it. She also got loud and I told her she needed to cool down on the acting. Her act ended up working since I ended up buying. I guess I’m a sucker for potentially crying women all over the world.

At USA men’s basketball practice on Tuesday at Beijing Normal University, several of the players were going crazy over former U.S. gymnastics star Dominique Dawes, a very stunning woman who is working for Yahoo! At the Olympics. One, who I will keep anonymous, said he has had a crush on her since he was a kid and was giddy. Yes, these guys have millions of dollars and are famous, but that doesn’t mean they got game when it comes to the ladies.

One night Globe co-worker Patti Wen, who is Chinese, took Greg and myself to a Chinese restaurant in an alley somewhere in the heart of the town where he could get Peking duck. The food was delicious and service was phenomenal. Afterward, she took us through some back alley way in the dark to go to our first visit to the Silk Market. I felt like I was in the real hood of Beijing and for a while it seemed like two dudes were following us. The last time I had my antenna on that high was when I made the mistake of picking up a girl for a date late at night in South Central Los Angeles about 10 years ago on a street where the street lights weren't working. I didn’t think they had hoods in Beijing. Remember what Ice Cube once said, “Every hood’s the same.” I guess such is the case whether in the U.S. or China.

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15 comments so far...
  1. Public apology to the family for the stabbing of a foreigner by a local nutjob? Who exactly would you expect to apologize, and why? We, the Chinese government, are sorry that we have psychopaths in our country? I don't recall our government ever making a public apology when a tourist is murdered or victimized on our streets, do you? Of course not. Perhaps you can get an official apology for the lousy food at the games, too.

    I realize that China has a dominating, authoritarian government. But the country is still made up of individuals. Try giving them a little credit, bro.

    Posted by Dan August 20, 08 09:14 AM
  1. Glad to hear you called out the Spanish b'ball player on his "not speaking English very well" - but hello??? You seriously thought that orange chicken, crab rangoon and sweet and sour pork were real Chinese food as they'd serve in China? Ever been to Chinatown in any major city? Yes, they'll have all that crap for the gringos. But you can get "real" Chinese food there as well. Just stop asking for the American stuff that passes for "Chinese" food in the U.S.

    Posted by Linda August 20, 08 09:28 AM
  1. Mark,
    We loved your stuff on the Celtics this year but this is very funny and gives a great view of the games not seen on NBC. Have fun and we look forward to more stories!

    Posted by Kathleen Amirault August 20, 08 09:48 AM
  1. Well, I will try to be as diplomatic as I can, but I might say something that it could hurt someone. I will start saying that I lived in the USA for several years, but left a few years ago just to return to my home country (Spain). After this, and saying that I have no major problems with the americans, I will say that I am tired of hearing from Engish and American press that the Spanish are racist just because they took a picture for a chinese ad in Spain. If after this clear explanation people still think that we are racist, what can we do? It is a matter of understanding and not being too political correct, and that kind of hiprocesy is something that I hated. As I always said, you can kill in a movie 2000 people, but you cannot show a girls breast at 10 pm in NBC or CBS for example or say f***.

    In regards to Navarro´s words, I agree that the true sportman should speak after a loss, but he did not say I do not understand you, he just said My english is not very good, what it is not a problem, and that´s all. Obviously after a year in the states, you can understand the language, but maybe speaking it is a different story, just ask the same thing to other sports people, like baseball players from DR (fyi: it is not close to Spain, is in the American continent as well) who after 6 years in the majors, still need a translator.

    Finally, I totally agree that we were beaten pretty bad on Saturday, but I do not think Spain really took the game really seriously, as they have several players that need some rest, and USA had more to show to the world. Obviously you have better players in general, but as they always say, it is a team sport, so I still give a 20% chance of winning to Spain if they make it to the final, we will see...

    Don´t get over confidence or you will find yourselves out of the tournament.

    Sorry for the mistakes and do not think that you are in the center of the world....

    Best regards and GO SOX.

    Posted by José August 20, 08 10:10 AM
  1. "Remember when the U.S. men’s volleyball coach’s wife’s father was stabbed to death at the beginning of the Olympics? The next day it was about a six paragraph story with bare minimum information in the China Daily. Sad. No public apology to the family either."

    A minor correction. The Chinese president did apology to Bush when they met the day after the incident, and it's reported on the Chinese media.

    Posted by Yves August 20, 08 11:03 AM
  1. Thank You USA for kicking some Spanish "wide" butts. They disrespected any people who looks different from them and they still thinks their actions were funny. The Spanish basketball team are no better then the CEO/Marketers of Abercombie and Bitch oops.. Fitch.

    One highlight was an interview to Rafael Nadal ... who is a Spaniard and he says that it's nice to live in the Olympic Village, you get to meet other cultures. I don't remember his exact words in the news columns I've read, but a mature 22 year old for his age. A world game of tennis that he plays as a citizen of Spain, and a respectable person of his stature. Thank You Mr. Nadal if I can call you sir... a gentleman and world athlete.

    Mr. Nadal shows respect on and off the court and with the disgraceful spanish basketball team, look who's laughing? .. did you get any medals? ... What is the medal count for Spain? Maybe Spain's basketball team need to recruit some Chinese basketball players?

    Posted by Eric August 20, 08 11:27 AM
  1. Having worked in Beijing for nearly a year, it is too bad that the Boston Globe could not find a reporter with some idea of culture instead of a boob like this Marc J. Spears.

    These comments are a case of someone who is allowed the experience, but cannot understand its meaning. In a land where civilization is 5,000 years old, these are his best impressions?

    His Chinese hosts must laugh through their sleeves at the bumpkin you have sent as your representative

    Here is my conclusion: the Globe must be hiring writers away from the Herald.

    Posted by harvey a. lipman August 20, 08 01:11 PM
  1. Why should they offer a public apology to the family? The Chinese government didn't kill him, some lunatic did. If a lunatic shoots some visiting German tourists in Boston, would you expect a public apology in the Globe?

    Posted by GW South August 20, 08 03:07 PM
  1. I am loving your blog. Why are you so funny! Talking about how you had your antennas up so high in the hood. Like you mentioned- a hood will always be a hood just in a different area!

    Sorry if you didn't know that Real Chinese food does not consist of crab ragoon, orange chicken and so forth. I could have given you the heads up. Not one place I have gone to when the workers/cooks were eating together at their table ever ate what they were serving you. It is always a fresh catch of fish or a heeping full of a well steamed plate of vegetables!-THE GOOD STUFF

    You're the ill celeb- Let me find out!

    Posted by Natalie O August 20, 08 10:30 PM
  1. Mark,
    We loved your stuff on the Celtics this year but this is very funny and gives a great view of the games not seen on NBC. Have fun and we look forward to more stories!

    Posted by Kathleen Amirault August 21, 08 05:47 AM
  1. Well, I will try to be as diplomatic as I can, but I might say something that it could hurt someone. I will start saying that I lived in the USA for several years, but left a few years ago just to return to my home country (Spain). After this, and saying that I have no major problems with the americans, I will say that I am tired of hearing from Engish and American press that the Spanish are racist just because they took a picture for a chinese ad in Spain. If after this clear explanation people still think that we are racist, what can we do? It is a matter of understanding and not being too political correct, and that kind of hiprocesy is something that I hated. As I always said, you can kill in a movie 2000 people, but you cannot show a girls breast at 10 pm in NBC or CBS for example or say f***.

    In regards to Navarro´s words, I agree that the true sportman should speak after a loss, but he did not say I do not understand you, he just said My english is not very good, what it is not a problem, and that´s all. Obviously after a year in the states, you can understand the language, but maybe speaking it is a different story, just ask the same thing to other sports people, like baseball players from DR (fyi: it is not close to Spain, is in the American continent as well) who after 6 years in the majors, still need a translator.

    Finally, I totally agree that we were beaten pretty bad on Saturday, but I do not think Spain really took the game really seriously, as they have several players that need some rest, and USA had more to show to the world. Obviously you have better players in general, but as they always say, it is a team sport, so I still give a 20% chance of winning to Spain if they make it to the final, we will see...

    Don´t get over confidence or you will find yourselves out of the tournament.

    Sorry for the mistakes and do not think that you are in the center of the world....

    Best regards and GO SOX.

    Posted by José August 21, 08 06:11 AM
  1. "Remember when the U.S. men’s volleyball coach’s wife’s father was stabbed to death at the beginning of the Olympics? The next day it was about a six paragraph story with bare minimum information in the China Daily. Sad. No public apology to the family either."

    A minor correction. The Chinese president did apology to Bush when they met the day after the incident, and it's reported on the Chinese media.

    Posted by Yves August 21, 08 07:08 AM
  1. I trust him when he says he don't speak english.
    By the way, what's the question you ask him ?

    finally, I don't think the picture was racist... it was just funny


    that's a campaing for disturb the spaniard players...

    Posted by michel jordan August 21, 08 07:47 AM
  1. Actually, Orange Chicken is Chinese food. The original dish came from Hunan province in China. It's called êÆ¤ëu or Chen Pi Ji (In Pinyin), which means "Old peel Chicken". This refers to the dried orange peels that they use to make the glaze. However, in America, we like to sweeten everything, so orange juice is usually added, making it less sour. I've talked to many Chinese person and they know of Chen Pi Ji, but they don't know it as "Orange Chicken". Many dishes of American style Chinese food were simply altered to cater to American tastes, with American style names. Also, most Chinese resturants are actually Cantonese, which means that they are from Hong Kong, which is quite different from China.

    Reference: ^ Lo, Eileen Yin-Fei (1999). "Poultry and Other Fowl", The Chinese Kitchen, calligraphy by San Yan Wong, 1st Edition, New York, New York: William Morrow and Company, 314. ISBN 0-688-15826-9. ¡°ORANGE CHICKEN Chun Pei Gai Pan Traditionally this Hunan recipe contained what is called chun pei, or ¡®old skin,¡¯ to describe the dried citrus peel used in its preparation.¡±

    Posted by David August 30, 08 01:53 PM
  1. Marc J. Spears-
    Who do you think you are, castigating Juan Carlos Navarro for failing to answer your question, "My english not very good', sounds like an answer to me. Judging by the article your wrote, I suspect your question wasn't worth answering anyway! Maybe he DID have the answer in his head but just didn't exactly know how to SAY it in English! This is just an example of how arrogant you bloody lot are thinking you're the centre of the universe. Depicting a photograph as racist? Even the chinese thought it was silly!!! If the main subject of the supposed 'joke' are not complaining, why are you?! The Spaniards played a better game as they played as a TEAM, something that is alien to your dream team.
    I hope the Globe sends a better correspondent to the 2012 Olympics.

    Posted by Sharon September 1, 08 01:56 PM
 

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