I personally think one of the most enjoyable things about living in a foreign country is to learn how to communicate with the locals in their own language.  I never spent much time with Korean, because I didn't really want to stay there very long, and not many people in the world speak that language anyway.  I don't especially want to stay in China for a long time, either, but in 100 years, those people in the world who aren't speaking Spanish will be speaking Chinese, so in case I'm around then, it might be nice to know at least one of those tongues.

I've obviously not learned a lot of Chinese since I've been here, but I've been studying and picked up a few things.  This morning I had some interesting moments.  I needed some envelopes, so I looked up the word "envelope" in an online English to Chinese translation website.  Well, they had several Chinese words for it, so I picked one of them and wrote it down and headed to the store.  I tried to pronouce it and then showed one of the clerks what I'd written down.  I could tell she didn't quite understand and I didn't have enough Chinese to explain it to her (although I do know the word for "mail").  So I called one of the deans at the university, an American fellow whose been here for many years and can speak the language fluently, and he told me the word I needed.  I let him talk to one of the clerks, and she understood him, but they didn't have what I wanted.  She pointed upstairs to where there were some other shops, so I headed up there and found a small stationary shop.  I know how to say "do you have..." and so I added the word (two Chinese characters, actually) for "envelope," and he handed me one.  I told him--in Chinese--that I wanted 10, and then asked--in Chinese--how much they would cost.  He told me and I understood him.  It wasn't much of a conversation, but I felt good about it.  I stopped at a kiosk on the way home and got something to eat.  I didn't know what it was, so I had to point--it looked like a hot dog on a tortilla.  He had some red pepper and asked me if I wanted some of it--he motioned, I didn't understand him--but I know how to say "a little bit," and he understood.  "How much does it cost?" I asked him, and I understood his answer.   I'm not boasting here, I just thought it was an interesting story that I'd share with you.

I'll probably never be fluent in the language--again, I don't want to be here that long--but it's nice to be able to do a little communicating.  And I'm going to keep working on it because I enjoy it.  Maybe my next stop will be Mexico, or someplace else where they speak Spanish--like California--and I'll learn some of that.