jo san, jo san!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Well folks. My language “lesson” didn’t quite go as expected. Not only did I NOT get to, “can you teach me to make dumplings” it seems I couldn’t quite get past “jo san” (good morning). As I enthusiastically pointed at the Chinese characters in my book and uttered jo san, jo san, the grandmother kept saying “good morning” “good morning” back to me waving her thumbs up at me and laughing. I did try to move on to “my name is” but seems for the first lesson she wanted me to master “jo san”. Since there are between six and ten tones in Cantonese…chances are, I could have been mispronouncing it. I mean, I might have thought I was saying good morning and I could really have been saying nice hat, or eat peaches, eat peaches. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up! Thanks for the license!

June 9 (my birthday)

After 3 book stores, I finally found a Cantonese/English phrase book. I have lived next door to a Chinese family for a year now and there are two women (who I take to be mother and daughter) that I wave to, smile at and mutually share pointing at things in the garden and making agreeable sounds with. The older lady often does a thumbs up at my garden, which always makes my day. I find grandmother outside regularly hanging hand washing and early each morning, doing her morning stretching exercises. There is something about her that reminds me of my grandmother (who lived with us when I was a child). Like my Chinese neighbour, my grandmother did not speak English. Restricted by this, the house and garden was her domain.

I have been peaking out the front window all morning waiting to see the grandmother out there. Last night I perused my book for appropriate phrases and have flagged “good morning” – “jó sàn” and “my name is…” – “ngáw giu…” My Mandarin speaking Chinese friend says the closest I can come to my name in Chinese is “Sala”. I guess that’ll have to do. I’m desperately trying to figure out how to piece together “can you teach me to make dumplings” from my book. Like, wouldn’t that be the first thing you’d want to know in Cantonese?

I hang out in the garden for awhile doing some weeding, hoping she might show up. I’m doing battle with this weird fungus I’ve identified in my garden known as “dead man’s fingers”. It grows because the trunk and roots of an old Chestnut tree are rotting beneath the soil, and they love this. The Chinese grandfather comes out, but I don’t really connect with him. He wears gloves all year round, no matter how hot the weather and always seems a bit weak to me. I wonder if he’s suffered a stroke. So I go inside a hope to meet her later today. Stayed posted….