I recently came across a Spanish langauge book group in Shanghai & contacted them to get more information. The organizer said their next meeting was in a couple of weeks, & that the book was available at a copy shop on such-&-such road next to so-&-so restaurant.
So the other night I went in search of said copy shop. When I got to such-&-such road, I couldn't find the so-&-so restaurant, so I started looking in store windows for what might be a copy shop.
Mind you, copy shops in China do not in any way look like copy shops in the US. In the US, I would look for something like this:
In China, it looks more like this:
You gotta know what you're looking for.
After a couple of passes up & down the short street, I finally found a copy shop & ducked inside. Squeezed in among the piles of boxes on one side & a couple of boisterous children on the other, I asked the proprietor for the 西班牙语的读书俱乐部的书, the Spanish book club book. He had no idea what I was talking about. Hm.
I asked if there was another copy shop nearby & the man pointed me down the street & around the corner. Off I went. I found the second copy shop & asked for the same Spanish book club book. I had the right place! I got my book, paid my 50 RMB (about US $7.60), & left the shop feeling a bit giddy.
This would never have happened a year ago. Not only would I not have been able to communicate what I needed in Chinese, but I wouldn't have been able to find the first copy shop at all because I would have been looking for a Kinkos. But now, although I'm still floundering as I roam around Shanghai, I experience tiny successes like this, & it makes it all worth the effort.