Tuesday, November 22, 2005

My Chinese is Improving!

Not my spoken Chinese -- which is still stuck at "bao" -- my comprehension of written Chinese.  Before I came, I only knew one character ("man").  Now, I know seven more!  700 percent improvement!  I expect this level of improvement in a day is really just possible on Day One, but still.

Started off the morning with another buffet brunch at the hotel.  This was the second day in a row they tried to pawn off coffee on me.  (I'm a tea drinker; csn't stand coffee.)  Yesterdsy, when the nice lady sat me, she asked if I wanted coffee or tea.  I'd said, "No, thank you."  When I returned from the buffet a put of steaming coffee had magically appeared on my table.  When I recounted this to Peggy later, she said the woman probably heard me say "thank you" and figured I'd said yes to the coffee.  OK, fine.  Today, when the woman seats me, she says, "can I get you coffee or tea?" and I think, "OK, if I clearly choose tea, I won't have that 'thank you' problem."  So I said, "Tea, please.:  And then she waves over to the guy and says something that sounds like "Kafe," and I think, "That doesn't sound like 'tea' to me."  Sure enough, coffee again.  (This time just a cup, not a pot.  Perhaps she thought she shouldn't waste a whole pot on me.  By now, she might even be curious as to why I keep 'ordering' coffee but don't drink it.)  ANYWAY, when I told Peg about this morning, she figured desperate times called for desperate measures, so she told me the Chinese word for "tea."  It sounds kinda like "Tcha."  I practiced for several minutes but still couldn't get it, so I have resigned myself to another untouched cup of java tomorrow morning.

We went to the National Palace Museum.  OK, when Chaing Kai-Shek and his troops fled mainland China (after being defeated by the communists), they came to Taiwan.  And they brought with them a whole bunch of artifacts from the imperial palace.  Huge honkin' collection.  It's on display in Taipei, at the National Palace Museum.

I lie. A fraction is on display at the National Palace Museum -- they don't have enough room to display it all.  Worse than that,k the museum is undergoing a massive renovation, so only about a quarter of it is open right now.  Still, I saw some amazing stuff.  Lots of examples of Chinese calligraphy; beautiful scrolls; carvings in wood, ivory, and jade; imperial signets; and a religious sculpture collection.  Much of it was beautiful, but some of the detail work on the small pieces was amazing.  There was this one thing that had seventeen concentric ivory spheres -- each sphere was carved with a sort of lattice pattern so you could see the next sphere inside.  Amazing.  And such wonderful delicate work -- there were a couple carved armrests I fell in love with.  (I know.  Armrests.)

It was raining, so we decided to stay indoors.  The three of us went to see the Harry Potter movie.  (Thank goodness for worldwide simultaneous release.)  English with Chinese subtitles.  It was here that I picked up several more Chinese characters.  I confirmed that the one I thought was "no," was indeed "no."  (I am most proud of this one as I'd picked it up just watching the Hillary Duff movie on the plane.)  I also learned "one," "two" and "three."  (Especially "three," with all that "Tri-wizard" stuff.)  And when I questioned Peggy as to why the same character appeared in the two-character expressions for "entrance" and "exit," she explained that it was "opening" (so they're like, "in-opening" and "out-opening") so I added that one to my list.  (You may wonder why I didn't bother with "in" and "out."  I'm sticking with the easily-identifiable ones -- that are made with just a few pen-strokes.)

After the movie, Sabing's mom took us to dinner.  It was a buffet, so I was able to be mildly adventurous without, y'know, wasting anyone's money if the food turned out to be not to my liking (bonus points again to Sabing's mom for being so thoughtful).  I tried some innocent-looking sushi (which wasn't as innocent as it looked at all, as there was wasabi hidden in it).  I also ate some weird-looking fruit -- the outside is red and ... not smooth ... and the inside is white with itty bitty black seeds in it.  Sabing's mom and Peggy couldn't remember what it was called, but it was fairly tasty.  (Kind of kiwi-esque, but milder.)  The buffet also had wine, and I had a small glass.  It was very sweet and tasted oddly like the Manischewitz I grew up with -- odd, I'd thought only Jewish people were saddled with that stuff.

 After dinner, we went to Sabing's aunt's house.  My first visit to a Taiwanese home.  Very exciting.  They were very friendly and welcoming.  (They put out a big bowl of fruit and kept offering for us to take some.  Peggy explained, "We just came from an all-you-can-eat buffet.  We at all we could eat.")  A three-year-old cousin kept showing us his toys and offering them to me.  Eventually, he handed me a child's picture book, and I actually liked it, as it helped with identifying more Chinese characters.  I got "five" -- sadly, "four" is still a mystery -- and "little."  Unless you're talking about little men not opening something, I don't think I'll understand -- but it's a start.

Just got a cab back to the hotel, and I better to sleep soon, as I have a very early morning tomorrow.  I've got a tour that picks me up at 6:20 in the morning.  Eep.

1 comment:

mom23nca said...

Ni Hao (Hello)  It sounds as if you are enjoying your trip.  I am really looking forward to the pictures.