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December 30, 2003

still Studying

A week of study to go. I got a great grammar lesson last week when the ceiling bulb in my room went out twice.

The first time, I accompanied Cao Pingping to ask the resident apartment repairman to fix it. (We couldn't unscrew the bulb from its socket.) When the problem recurred three days later, I joyfully approached the repairman by myself and explained that "deng zai huai le" (the bulb broke again). When no one came for two days, Xu Laoshi asked me to repeat what I had said. Then, she reminded me that "zai" is the FUTURE tense for again. My listener know doubt thought I was reminiscing about the original incident. I should have used the PAST tense of again, "you." I tried again, with immediate results.

I also had fund making five trips to the counter at the neighborhood post office, where I successfully mailed my first domestic and international letters. On the second trip, the young man at the counter didn't understand my question about whether the letter was overweight and simply sent me to a
mail box. I tried again and this time got an answer (as well as to all my questions about envolope size, etc.). I am sure he was happy when I had completed my business!

Three days ago, my stomach was a little upset. Lao Zhang was very worried when I missed two meals, but some ginger tea that Xu Laoshi provided seemed to speed my recovery. She and I were both just a tiny bit disappointed, though, that my condition didn't require a trip to the hospital, whether I could practice the medical dialogs on which we had been working. Terry is trying to fit everything -- including, of course, gifts -- into her suitcases. I can't wait for her arrival in five days.

-- Norty

Posted by now at 07:28 AM

December 22, 2003


I am midway through a month of homestay intensive language study in Shanghai. My host family -- Ms. Xu Chunhua and Mr. Cao Pingping are terrific. Xu Laoshi (Teacher Xu) has drilled me to the point where I can mail a letter, take a bus or taxi, distinguish among the meat, vegetable and red bean paste "baozi" (tasty stuffed, steamed bread balls), explain why I am a "chi su de ren" (vegetarian), and a few other activities of daily life.

Lao Zhang (Xu Laoshi's mother) is a great cook, but (like so many women in the U.S.) worries that I don't eat enough. Cao Ping Ping works in Nanjing during the week, but returns to Shanghai weekends and helpfully pushes me into situations on the street where I have to talk with people. After two weeks, Xu Laoshi's sister, Aihua, and I can understand one another a little bit. Older daughter Xiami attends a private middle boarding school and comes home on weekends. She and I are even -- one game apiece -- at playing "xiangqi" (Chinese chess). Unfortunately, her mother has beaten me each time we've played. I came out a little ahead playing ping pong with Cao Pingping the other day, though -- and playing ping pong is a great way to practice the Chinese number system. The last member of the household is Renr, a cute four-month-old baby. I think she recognizes me. (Lao Zhang and Aihua are here temporarily, to help with the baby. They will probably go to Nantong along with Terry and me on January 8.)


Posted by now at 12:04 AM