Tone Deaf in China

All countries have an expansive culture, china is no exception. Her mood swings and beauties as great as a rock star.

Yet sometimes only one word can describe an entire country. In Israel, it was ‘suspicious’. Here, it is ‘˜puffy’ Nearly all of china is puffy – it’s miniature dogs in the towns, it’s Dr Seuss trees hugging rock pillars. The woolly yaks on a Tibetan plateau. Puffy.

And just like the rest of Asia, it is ‘in need of maintenance’. They build these grand, amazing structures, plant gorgeous botanical gardens, articulately lay tiles and designs, and then allow nature to reconstruct them, or let them fall apart.

The only thing about china that is not ‘puffy’ is the language, It’s Evil.

I read the phonetically spelt roman numeral word from my phrasebook, accenting with the clippie Chinese tongue to allow for better understanding. They look at me strangely, most never even trying to understand. Then they say the word back to me, and I nod vigorously. I say it again. They seem dumbfounded. I think I’ve said it exactly the same way, but in a country where Xie can mean horse, fire or Tuesday depending on the tone. Well, lets just say it’s no fun being tone deaf in china.

They must also be colour blind, my pants are blue I tell you, blue, not green.
And as the Yellow River lives up to her name, during the floods. Jouyuping says to me ‘always clear, today yellow’ on the tributary flowing in, I’d somehow call it muddy brown, but I am just a visitor, so who am I to argue?

-By Carmen Major

From An Anthology of Verse and Prose

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