Yesterday I didn't anticipate having much time to review my Chinese, but I actually had a lot of opportunity to use it in context. After work in the morning, I took a ten minute bus ride an international yiyuan (hospital) down the street. Although all the services were in English, I was determined to practice a phrase that keeps escaping me: ninhou, wen yixia, xishoujian zai nar? (where is the bathroom, literally, hello, ask a little, bathroom where is it?). So, after finalizing the bill, I asked the receptionist this question. I got directions and found it easily. (Confession: I understood only because of her gestures, I didn't recognize any of her words. I realize that after numbers, my next major review will have to be my directions.)
From there, I met a friend for coffee. I feel comfortable in kafeidian (coffee shops) since it was incorporated into my lesson, At a Western-Style Restaurant, back in March. I placed my order, yige dabei meishi kafei jia niunai (one large Americano with milk, literally, one big cup American-style coffee add milk) but was disappointed when the cashier confirmed my order in English. Before leaving, I decided to practice asking for the bathroom again. I was easily understood, but like before, found my way by following gestures and signs.
In the evening, I went a microbrewery with a group of new staff from work. As the menu that we were given was in English and I had no way of knowing the Chinese names of the cai (dishes), I pointed to what I wanted and asked for yige (one).
I realized yesterday that setting my goal to improve my Mandarin has opened more doors than just a language and culture. I've opened myself up to more social opportunities and am receiving positive feedback from non-Chinese speakers about how much I can communicate already. It's nice to hear, because it was only 11 months ago that I only knew ni hao (hello) and xie xie (thank you). Even if I still do feel limited, when other people are impressed, I allow myself to stop for a moment and be impressed too.