国语

Pronounced guó .  Mandarin.  National language of China.

Also, my nemesis.  Because I am not learning it very well.

I admit, I neglected my Chinese.  I didn’t have time to go through my Rosetta Stone drills when I was actually in China last month, and when I got back I let it go.  I neglected my already haphazard study of the Chinese language.  Finally, this week, I put the CD back in my computer and started up again.  And I discovered that I still don’t know what’s going on.  The computer speaks to me, and shows me pictures, and often I can match up one to the other just fine.  But I’m not actually learning individual words; I’m getting the general gist, which won’t do me very much good when I actually want to communicate something.  I can’t really stand there and look earnest and get anywhere with a gist.  Instead, I picture myself, a conspicuously tall blue-eyed white person,  wandering around speaking incoherently in my fuzzy impression of Mandarin.

As I got lost in this discouraging daydream, I remembered a funny moment at the Forbidden City in Beijing.  My colleague and I looked over and saw a ridiculous sight: an American guy, close to seven feet tall, wearing a cowboy hat.  He stood literally a head above anyone else in the crowd.  With a cowboy hat.

So I have two things going for me: I’m under six feet tall, and I do not own, nor have I ever owned, nor do I have any plans to own, a cowboy hat.

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