Sunday, June 17, 2007

If Only I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then

Things I wish had known before coming to China...hmmm...

I wish I'd figured out that when I started studying Chinese, I was in a place where three languages were spoken, the least popular of which was the language I was attempting to study - Putonghua, Mandarin Chinese. A bit like going to a border town in Texas to learn the Queen's English...

And I wish I'd known that perfect pronunciation in the local dialect, Chaoshanhua, is achieved by pinching one's nose and forcefully shouting, all the while channeling the sounds that a Muscovy duck in ecstasy might make.

I wish I'd known that those Saturday afternoon Kung Fu movies, with the rapid-fire dubbed English, were not anomalies of translation: Everything in China is dubbed. The same strange movements of the mouth are present even here, with their own language, where the spoken word seems to come anywhere but from the actors' lips.

I wish I'd known the difference between what is publicly said and privately done is a difference of Great Wall-ish proportions.

I wish I'd known how much better Chinese food in China is than Chinese food in the States was. And how colorful the names could be: "Go Down in the Road Countryside, It is Made Up of Coriander and Pig Hand," "Pig Elbow that An Ancient Poet Liked Very Much," and "Fuck Black Pepper Bowl of (random Chinese character)."

I wish I'd known how two years can turn into four, and more, and how you could spend a life getting sucked into, "If I just stay a little longer, I'll figure it all out..."

I wish I'd known what now looked like, how hard it would be to leave the strangeness, the time you've put in, the luminously beautiful girl you speak to through the computer screen...

I wish I could not know it all again.

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