Currently, I am at a local friend’s house in the midst of studying Chinese. He is in the middle of studying English. I’m sure he has been doing it for over an hour or two since he keeps murmuring while looking at his phone dictionary, and the paper he is writing on is covered front and back. The words he is using are ones I don’t even know, and they would probably be used by my grandma in a wicked game of Scrabble. And they call me an “English teacher” (ha!). I’m here reviewing my Chinese, and my wonderful Anki tells me that I’ve crammed 625 vocabulary cards in 48 minutes. I need to take a break. I think my brain is swelling.
A thought came to me this morning as my wife and I walked to the school cafeteria for lunch. I need to speak Chinese. As soon as I walk out of our apartment, I need to speak Chinese. Some of you may say, “No, you don’t.” But I think it would just be a waste for me not to learn the language. It just happened to hit me even more today. At times, it’s been a struggle using another language. It’s been a little difficult also when simply walking down the road in 30˚-40˚C weather (that’s 86˚-104˚F for those doing the conversion in your head). To arrive at my friend’s place, I had to walk 400 meters or so, and by the time I reached here my shirt was already drenched with sweat. Even though my friend’s air conditioning isn’t on, I don’t care. Water seems to be at the forefront of my mind more than usual, and it’s either embrace the sweat or complain about it. I’ll choose the former.
Speaking of not caring, when I was with a Chinese friend yesterday I asked about the police signs posted above the roads and what they meant. My friend chuckled, defined that particular one, and said, “Nobody reads those.” I pressed even further and questioned if anyone reads the partnering signs that include encouraging phrases, quotes, and proverbs for all to see and take in deeply. “I don’t think so.” Then, just for fun, I asked if the government officials read them. “I hope they do.”
What does that mean? I have yet to inquire, but I do know that my friend and I both have things we don’t care about.