Friday, November 24, 2006

Nothing Much

It's late on a Friday night in Beijing, but I've been lolling about for too long, and sleep is unappealing. So I thought I would write to tell you all that it's snowing here, and though it's not sticking yet, the ground may have a little coat by morning. The past week has brought a(nother) steep drop in the temperature, to the point that I'd be willing to guess it's colder here than it is in Boston right now. Kind of makes me miss the ocean, and its climate-stabilizing properties.

This time of night is the time for overblown and magniloquent analogies. So here's one that will probably leave you feeling woozy afterwards.

The Chinese language is like a wall. A wall in Beijing—- which is to say, a wall shrouded in a haze of coal dust. It goes on endlessly in two directions, and the top is out of sight in clouds of soot and smoke. During my semesters studying the language in Medford, I got up close with the wall, going over it with a magnifying glass, trying to figure out how to get through. Can’t go around it, can’t get under it, no ladders… I decided to come to China, with high hopes.

I stepped back, ran full speed, and threw my body against it, expecting to crash through and find myself in a paradise shared by a billion Chinese and a few odd outsiders—but no such luck. As it turns out, this wall isn’t drywall, or even loosely piled stones—something closer to brick. So I dislocated my shoulder smashing against the wall, and here I am, bloodying my fingers, crumbling the mortar away one little pebble at a time.

And if you misbehave again, I’ll make up another analogy and flog it to death.


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