A very odd sensation today. My husband and I had gone to try to find decent quality office furniture (ergonomic desks, stand-up desk, that sort of thing). The store was closed, even though it was long before noon. For some reason I was drawn to the store next door, which looked a bit like a garden / home store. It had all sorts of stuff in the doorway so I wandered in while my husband sat outside, longing for lunch. As I stepped inside I heard the radio. After a minute the sounds became understandable to me — the radio was a talk show in Mandarin. I looked around, and sure enough, the proprietor was Chinese. The setting felt instantly familiar.
It’s funny, it’s been a very, very long time since I lived in Beijing. But it was such a formative experience that it has stuck with me. I understood the store completely — the odd combination of stuff, the kinds of things one was likely to find, the useful and oddball stuff. And while I’ve forgotten most of the Chinese I once knew, my ability to converse in Chinese is still light-years ahead of Spanish. Often, when I’m trying to say something in Spanish I’ll hear words coming out of my mouth and realize I’ve dropped some Chinese words in the middle of the sentence ….