Saturday, February 7, 2009

On Chinese New Year

This past weekend, I went to Boston for the tail-end of CNY, because the new year is about family, food, and for some (ahem, certainly not me) it's also about money.  Mostly I went because I haven't seen my Popo (grandma) in 5 months, which is okay when I lived in California, but fairly unacceptable when I live a 4 hour, $15 bus ride away.  Mostly I was subconsciously avoiding her since the last time I saw her I could barely understand anything she was saying. (Although to be fair, it must be acknowledged that most of that time was spent cuddling with babyturdie and hiding behind my sister's skirts, waiting for her to translate for me.) 

It's always been like this.  I have a complex about speaking Chinese.  Actually, I have a complex about speaking any language, period.  Basically I get scared that the person will be offended or laugh at me or... whatever.  I remember my complete inability to carry on a simple conversation with a run of the mill Japanese businessman during an exam in Japanese 100B, but once immersed in the culture and the language for two years, speaking was not a problem.  That's the key--immersion. 

So off to Popo's I went, quite certain of ridicule on all sides, especially from her.  But aside from a few half-hearted jibes, it wasn't that bad.  I had forced myself into immersion (i.e. living with Popo for a weekend) and we were fine. Although I think the amount of understanding between my grandma may have been aided/hurt by the following factors:

1) Popo punctuates what she says with hand motions and general pointing.  And she repeats everything twice in order for me to get it. 
2) She's getting harder of hearing.  I had to repeat myself twice. And plus that just confuzzled me as to whether or not she didn't get what I was saying, or if she just didn't hear mt. 
3) When I'm in a high pressure situation and someone says something to me in a foreign language that I don't get, I'll just smile and nod. That probably didn't help with the communication.
4) Most of our conversation (I'd say about 60%) was about food, eating, how much I eat, how often I cook, if I cook for friends--you get the idea.

The funniest (and grossest) thing about the weekend--not coincidentally related to food--is my discovery that the answer in my family to "I'm full" will always, unwaveringly be "Then eat more."  I think I ate about half my weight that weekend and that is no easy feat. 

Mostly though, it was great hanging out with Popo.  I think I forget that she too is a person before she is a grandma, and she is so happy when I say good morning and want to learn things from her.  It was worth coming to Boston, if not to make her happy, then at least to make me happy to realize that I'm taller than someone--the top of Popo's head barely grazes my chin and I made a killing in red pocket money. 

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