At the back of the hill

Warning: May contain traces of soy, wheat, lecithin and tree nuts. That you are here
strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton.
And that you might like cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


The prospect of food had me in C'town by five o'clock. It should have done so much earlier, but single men of the Dutch and middle-aged variety are easily distracted for long hours by reading material, and my stomach didn't make any noise till tea-time.

Naturally I ended up at the place run by a Toishanese family -- the grandma speaks nearly no Cantonese, but one would assume that she understands Mandarin pretty well, as she's addicted to emotional roller-coaster soap operas from the mainland -- where the woman who is nearly always behind the counter was absent, as was the little girl who comes home from school around that time. That left grandma, her son the little girl's dad, and a female relative of indeterminate connection.

I missed the little girl. She's very bright, and in second grade now.
But she and her mommy were out somewhere.


I place my order from the wall -- lerng gwaa pan kau faan -- and sat down to wait. At the table over from me there were two old people, plus their adult daughter and two school age grandchildren. The kids kept themselves occupied during the wait by reading the Chinese menu.
All five at that table were occupied in that effort.
The grown-ups in the role of auxiliaries.

The children did an exceptional job of it. I often overlook that if one isn't in the Chinatown environment on a regular basis, learning the language enough to read it is an arduous task. Three languages were deployed at that table. The grandparents spoke standard city Cantonese plus English, the woman and her children conversed in English and a bit of Cantonese, and all of them also threw Mandarin into the mix, because, I think, the kids went to a Chinese school where that was the language assigned to the characters and reading material.
Which is fairly common; lesson books give Pinyin, as do dictionaries.
And Pinyin is not particularly hard.

It takes quite a while before Cantonese sounds adhere to characters one has learned in Mandarin. Longer when one's native tongue is English.
Instead of either version of Chinese.

I had forgotten how difficult it is.

Those two children are very intelligent, clearly diligent students, and admirable. They are a credit to their mom and her parents.

It was a joy and a privilege to listen in.

Thank you.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older