Kinda Romance

(I wrote this on Valentine´s Day, while popping some pink heart-shaped candy I got from my 6-year old student, in my mouth one after the other, but had the time to edit it only now. Kind of a longie, so gallop over the odd lines. No hard feelings. Or just go for the vowels. Much sexier.)

So, seems I´ve taken nerdyville to a different level as I think I just managed to compose a love letter to a language. How ……….. (fill in the gaps) is that, no? Yes.

At least I´m cool enough for school. Let me first say that, at long last, bad head days seem to be over and I´m starting to feel more comfortable here. (Also, second semester has kicked, in and off, so I´m back at my old routine with lunch from the Old People´s University, seeing the Chinese teachers I admire and wrinkle those miles again in the French Concession before and after class. Yes yes, crossing Weihai Lu and the two Adult Health Shops. Ursula´s still there, hasn´t changed a bit since Xmas.)

Bueno, took me a good 5 months but, por fin, I am here. Far from trying to boast with that! Still, most comforting is to realise that the ¨Don´t think anyone can physically, financially and emotionally, sacrifice more to a language¨ favourite slogan of mine has somewhat got absorbed in this urban energy brainbow bubble.

So, yes, having all the Pokemon action scene sounds of ¨le¨s and ¨la¨s and ¨hao a¨s flowing and slitting the air or not, I moved to the Middle Kingdom last September exactly because of this darn beautiful language. I fell for it about 5 years ago. Fell, oh no. I gradually warmed up to it. I remember Nelly stroboscoping the syllables and tirelessly listening to the same dialogues over and over again. At that time, sweet early 20s, we were living together at Bartok 1 and tape recorders* were still in use. I would rush home in between my kindergarten classes, have a quick bite of some pizzanoid from the night before, in the meantime hear (and ignorantly mock) the given Chinese lesson of the day on Nelly channel, stare out half asleep of my eye sockets and trying hard to forget about the naughty kids at my class before I headed back to their second helping of my articulations.

Then, the second encounter was years later in Spain (when I crashcoursed on Andy Lau movies) and I suddenly had (found) the time and energy to take on a Mandarin course. Three years of irregular studies – in between moving with my company every summer and once I left for the Canaries for 9 months – frustration from the lack of progress started to spiral into some obsession. I used to joke that I might stay a beginner for the rest of my life. Now I feel some fulfilment when I talk to the locals and they understand.  Taxi drivers prove to be the best victims. Some of them are newly settled immigrants from other provinces and while they´re figuring the route in their heads, they welcome some foreign verbal tumbling. (Though once, to finish off a library flirt, I apparently said I had AIDS, instead of immune system. We are still friends.). And then again, this explains my commitment. I know what I´m doing. I think.

Now, and everyone who´s studied a foreign language before, knows, that at a certain point, out of the blue the matrix of the language clears up and you understand the way of logic behind it. I now find it both hilarious and helpful that many words are combinations of syllables. Makes the learning process much quicker. Servant is useful person, for instance, Hong Kong nice smelling harbour, Shanghai on the sea, everyone big house, banana nice smelling charred thing.

* I was backing up some new grammar point in my class the other day by giving some examples and the word ¨floppy disk¨ made my students look rather puzzled. I even showed them a picture of it on the internet but still vacant looks. Felt like a granny. But a naughty one at least. Luckily, Chinese students have no difficulties dealing with the consonant cluster in this particular case. Que barbaridad, I miss those tiny little blunders in Spain!

So, ask me what I did yesterday. Stayed in, drank a bucketful of woolong and, in short, this: 警察. Only this. About a hundred and fifty times.

So I dream of the language. Or the language dreams of me? Yep, Leo was so not the first one to come up with this.

All you need is love,

Meer Murr

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