In a class of 8 year olds

I finally started Chinese class. I really don’t think Chinese is going to be that hard to learn (grammatically). The real challenge is speaking, as it is a tonal language. So basically, if you said “ee” with a rising, falling, rising-falling, or high tone, it is four different words. It’s difficult to make that transition from English where we don’t have such madness built into the language. My classes are at a Chinese church and I was a little hesitant to go to Sunday’s class as I figured it might be some sort of ploy to get me into church – but it wasn’t, thankfully. I was looked at strangely by the other students when I told them I wasn’t religious in response to their questions (and I left out the fact that my dog Mojo and myself are legal reverends in the state of Texas).

But the staff doesn’t seem to preoccupied with religion (think I should hand out Nietzsche books so they can get his take on God?) and on Sundays, instead of us four being in our own room, we go into the class with all the 8-year-olds also learning Chinese. They are pretty spartan facilities, but then again, what can you expect for $15 bucks a month? In a bunch of desks in a really hot room and a fan rotating to your direction every 7 seconds, do I seem out of place? Yes, indeed. We all got to see, “I am ____ years old” in Chinese and after about 10 kids saying “I am 8 years old”, my “I am 22 years old” was a bit of a surprise to many, it seemed. Ever see that movie where Adam Sandler goes back to school and is in kindergarten? That’s me (oh yeah, and I’m white).

One kid, however, couldn’t help but point out, “wow, you’re young!” to which I responded, “and you’re younger”. It really is a surreal experience to hear so many languages going on at once by these little kids. You’ll see these Chinese kids running around speaking perfect Spanish (many who don’t know Chinese), or asking you questions in Chinese, or you’ll be sitting there reading and a kid will come up to you and make conversation in perfect English. I mean, English really is rare down here. In the US, lots of people know a little bit of Spanish “Yo poco hablar espanol”, but here, if you’re not rich (and sometimes, even if you are), you don’t know a single word in English. You never hear it on the street. If your talking to a taxi driver and you don’t know a word in Spanish – you’re gonna have to think of a different way to say what you want to say.

Friday night we went out to a really high class Bolivian restaurant and go beer, wine, a really good dinner (llama for me), and dessert. I spent a whole 10 bucks. This was in celebration of the Becky’s birthday (Nick’s cousin who is in the Peace Corps). We also went to a bar and then they went dancing – at which point I took a cab home.

You always have to pick your exit wisely in Bolivia while out on the town. The longer you stay out, the drunker everyone gets and the more they want to drive you home when they are done partying. Also, if you don’t get out quick, you end up staying out till like 5am. And I like to sleep.

Sunday was a family get-together at the Spechar house and we spent all day in and out of the pool, eating and drinking, playing with the dogs, talking, and throwing around the football. It was a lot of fun and I also finished an incredible book called, “Why We Buy” by Paco Underhill. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the science of getting people to buy stuff.

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