Former Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
Richard W. Clark
Former Visiting Associate Professor, Human & Community Development
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development and 4-H Youth Development - Metro
Former Outreach Initiative Specialist
Former Director of Web Development
Former Extension Educator, Youth Development
JoAn C. Todd
Former Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development - Metro
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Sunday, April 27, 2008
During these past two weeks I had many opportunities to practice speaking Mandarin which I began learning 30 years ago when I was a missionary in Taiwan. Before this trip I spent a considerable amount of time using a language computer program to review. My practice came in handy! Most of the university people we worked with these past two weeks speak English very well. However many folks speak only Mandarin and a local dialect. Now I have to say my Mandarin was pretty rusty, but the practice helped. In a pinch I could ask for the location of the nearest rest room or at least give my hosts a good laugh.
The first humorous incident occurred at the little grocery store on the Sanda University campus. The shopkeepers gave me the first opportunity to try out my rusty Mandarin. They were the first folks I had encountered that couldn't speak any English. After a brief conversation with them, I was feeling ever so confident. They were smiling and giggling and telling me how good my Chinese was. I was on top of the world! Then it happened. One of the shopkeepers asked when our group had arrived. I drew a blank! I wracked my brain – "Now what's the word for yesterday? Is it ming tian or is it jin tian?" Finally I blurted out "ho tian". The look on the shopkeepers' faces told me that I given them a really screwy answer. They didn't laugh. They just looked at me as if to say "Honey, what planet did you come from?" When I got back to my room, I pulled out my old Chinese manual. It turns out I had told the shopkeepers we had arrived the day after tomorrow. At least I provided Virginia Kuo with a good laugh.
My Mandarin improved everyday I was there. I started remembering words and phrases. If I didn't totally understand, I could at least get the general idea of a conversation. It was indeed fun to be able to talk to children and ask people about their families and their lives.
At the tea farm, a little girl was yelling hello at us. I finally asked her in Mandarin how old she was. Like children everywhere, she responded by holding up 5 fingers. She was a cutie!