Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sometimes Knowing Chinese Is Worthless

Posted by He Said

We have made friends with our new neighbors Ethan and Vivian.  Ethan is a Caucasian American who speaks rockin’ Chinese. I know this because in his conversations with the street fruit vendors I have asked what they are talking about, and he tells me they are complimenting him on his Chinese.  I hear him speak, and his inflections and words so perfectly match the the flow of conversation, it is indistinguishable to me from that of the local speakers around me.

Of course, I don’t speak Chinese, so what do I know.

Last night we ran over to the nearby university where he works to pick up some books for his daughter.  There was a book sale similar to what you would see in the states. Line after line of tables with stacks of books, pens, pencils and other useful items every college student needs. You know like memory card readers, headphones and desktop lamps shaped like sunflowers.  You know, IMPORTANT stuff.

For the most part the acres of books are in Chinese.  There are lots of programming books, chemistry books and the like, but buried in the sea of simplified Chinese characters there are small islands of English books.  Very CHEAP English books.  Ok these are counterfeit books, let’s just get that out of the way.

Ethan had promised his daughter that he would pick up more books in her favorite series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” We made a beeline for the area where he knew there were English titles.  We found the series of books he was looking for and selected all the ones his daughter didn’t have.  He grabbed some super cheap copies of the first three of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series on my recommendation.

I picked up a copy of Catcher In The Rye because:

  1. It was like a buck and a half
  2. I have never read it
  3. J.D. Salinger recently passed away
  4. Because Susanne says I am trying to prevent my reentry onto the US by carrying a copy with me

Then Ethan asked the bookseller in his most excellent Chinese if she had any books for his 8 year daughter.

She pulled out Warren Buffet investment books, Michelle and President Obama books, and this one:


Ethen turned to me laughing and says.  “I don’t think she knows what she is selling”.