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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

普通話 (Pǔtōnghuà) Means the Common Speach

And boy is that right.

Tonight my friend Joo ("Joe," as in Schmoe) invited a few friends around to his uncle's place in the middle of the city. Joo is Korean, and his "uncle" is really just a close friend of the family, but Joo saves money on room and board while he attends Beihua's foreign language school by living there. It's a short ten minute/thirteen kuai cab ride from campus, and it's a welcome change of scenery.

We were having a "pot luck" dinner, so everyone had to bring something to eat. I didn't have time/any ability to cook, so James and I stopped by a jiaozi restaurant on our way there to buy a few dozen dumplings to bring with us. I ran into two of my classmates (also both Korean) from "qu ji er ban"/class two, and through broken Chinese, body language, and random (but necessary) English exclamations, I was able to invite them along. It was a short walk from the restaurant to Joo's, and when we got there, it was surreal.

Joo had some Korean friends, but also there was Wakana (one of the Japanese teachers), as well as James, Kevin, and myself. For once, English was not the common tongue, and we all had to push ourselves to communicate with Chinese. And it was great. Long-dormant vocabulary and speech patterns sprang to mind, forgotten verbs and phrases dusted off the cobwebs, and with just enough English to get over the big humps of understanding, we had a great time.

Playing an American drinking game (One Up, One Down), drinking Korean soju, counting off and talking in Chinese ... it was fantastically bizarre.

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