Thursday, September 19, 2013

Its legend

Had a very encouraging lunch today with someone who knows a lot about study in China. (He directs a fellowship program.) Contrary to what others have told me, he says it's not that hard to learn to speak Mandarin if one is really committed. Two of his fellows started from scratch this summer, devoting themselves to two months of intensive nothing-but-language, and are now skyping him in Mandarin. So my tentative plan to do an intensive summer program (perhaps at Middlebury) and then head to China makes a lot of sense to him... and now to me, too. (My Japanese will clearly help a lot with the written language, too.) His further suggestion - to arrive in China without too many introductions, as every introduction will lead to others. Chinese people are very friendly, he says, and go to great lengths for others.

He is himself originally from China, and is convinced that everyone who goes there will fall in love with it. Everyone except, well... he's heard that people who love Japan tend to hate China. I've heard that too. Guiltily I told him about my trip to the Palace Museum in Taipei, where nothing particularly appealed to me until I spotted something that turned out to be a gift from Japan: d'oh! It was a failure, not a victory, I assured him, one reason I need to go - to learn how to appreciate Chinese culture! But I was also remembering a display of bonsai for sale we'd seen on the sidewalk on the way to the restaurant. His reaction had been "You can get them for a tenth the price in Chinatown!" Mine was: "In Japan, nobody would display them like this, each one should at least look like it's a unique tree..."

No comments: