Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, February 01, 2009


This afternoon, Jack and I we went to Hallelujah Church. No English translation, but I was able to read the scriptures and sorta follow along, more or less. Jack helped me out a bit. He told me it was the first Chinese service he has been to. He usually goes to the English service at Haidian Church.

This evening, we had dinner with Chuan at one of those barbecue places. I don't know if they have this in the States, because I have not lived there for five years, but what you do is order a bunch of meats, and they come around with skewers and put a little of each kind on your plate. It is very tasty, but I had to leave some of it, because it was just too much.

I had not seen Chuan since he was a student at McClintock high school. Chuan was my neighbor in Arizona. His mother was my first Mandarin tutor. After my first trip to China in the fall of 2001, I decided that I really needed to start learning the language. After I returned to Arizona, I was wondering how to go about finding a Mandarin tutor, when I saw a sign posted in the laundromat of the apartment building where I lived: "I will teach your children Chinese." I called the number. "My children aren't interested in Chinese. But I need to learn Chinese." Lili had come to the States with her husband, who was on some kind of research grant at ASU. She had thought perhaps she could get some part time work teaching the children of Chinese people living in America. I don't think she realized that ABC's really aren't interested in learning Chinese. Anyway, she had brought books with her, but they were all children's books. So I started learning to read using an elementary primer. It showed a little picture of a car driving on a level road (first tone). Then it showed a picture of a car driving up a hill (second tone). Well, you can guess the rest. I learned the four tones, then started learning the vowel sounds. It was slow and tedious, but I have always been glad for it, because it prepared me for my second tutor, Ina, an ASU student who was a native speaker of Mandarin, a native speaker of Japanese, and had a book her father had written for teaching Mandarin to Japanese students. I certainly was not conversational when I came to China. But I had a much better foundation for language learning than most people who come here from America or other non-Mandarin speaking countries. The language schools in Wudaokou are good, but they don't spend that much time teaching you pinyin.

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