That isn't me in the photograph above, but it might as well be. Apparently I'm not making sufficient enough progress in Mandarin Chinese 普通话, and so, instead of leaving for Shanghai 上海 in early February as originally planned, we're going to be here in Washington until mid-April.
Mandarin and I have had a long, mutually antagonistic relationship. In spite of having lived for years in Taiwan, taking Chinese lessons first at language schools such as TLI and now at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia and, most inexplicably, being married to a native speaker of the language (not to mention having a daughter who is also proficient in Mandarin), I still struggle to understand what people are saying and fumble what should be easy sentence formulations. I could blame it on the humiliations handed out by certain less-than-kind Taiwanese (like the young woman at the tea stand who was literally rolling on the floor laughing at my efforts to order an 一杯奶茶不要冰快), but let's face it, I have no one to blame but myself.
My hang-ups are numerous, but it mainly boils down to the fact that I don't really like to talk for fear of making mistakes and looking foolish in front of others. Which means, of course, that I don't learn what I need to know and thus end up making mistakes and looking foolish in front of others when I do have to speak Chinese. I also tend to freeze up during evaluations and tests. Though I'm far from fluent in Japanese, while I was living in that country I could see doctors and discuss tax and insurance matters at city hall, all in the medium of 日本語. And those few of you who read this blog semi-regularly know that I frequently travel solo in Japan, relying on the local lingo for almost everything while getting around. And yet when I was tested in Japanese at FSI, my score wasn't high enough to get off of language probation. I was told that even though I demonstrated comprehension and speaking skills, my answers were "too short". Reticence, thy name is me.
On the bright side, now that our timeline has been pushed back, a lot of deadline-generated pressure has been temporarily lifted. And, of course, I now have more time to learn what needs to be learned in order to get out of here and on our way to Shanghai. 加油!
A view I'll be seeing more of until next spring