A few months ago, I said that my best friend Color won a bet we had started almost two years prior. (My punishment is going to be that I have to cook thai food for him. It could have been worse!)
A few years is a long time to continue a bet, but now we have another one that won’t be settled for 5 years. The bet? That I can’t read and understand a Chinese poem.
You see, weixin (WeChat), my favorite chat app, has a feature called ‘moments.’ It’s kind of like the wall of Facebook. You can put up a picture, write a little something, and all your friends can see it and like it or comment on it.
I’m getting pretty good at reading and understanding them (mostly written in Chinese) but for some reason I never understand what Color writes. Which is weird because we speak chinese to each other it’s not a problem. But when he writes these status updates I can never understand them.
His most recent update said: 忧卿烟火熏颜色， 欲觅仙人辟穀方。 While at this point I am familiar with a few thousand characters even I couldn’t read much of this. I recognized the words; color, smoking, place and I knew there was a god in there, or a magical being. I tried google translate without much success. (It translated it to: Emily worried fireworks smoke color, he who would search refraining fairy party. Reeeally good job google translate.)
So I gave up and asked him what it meant. He said it was a poem.
“Poems are hard,” I answered.
“Totally,” he replied. “You can never understand it.”
I said that someday I will, and he said “You can’t. Unless ten years study.”
I’ve been here for 5 years, and while I’ve never dedicated myself solely to studying Chinese, I’ve been doing okay. And five years from now? Well, reading poetry shouldn’t be such a herculean task. But what kind of poetry? Over dinner we hashed out the details.
In the spring of 2019 Color will select a modern poem and I have to understand not every word, but the basic idea of it.
The last bet wasn’t in my control. It was just a questionnaire kinda one. But this one is, and 5 years?! Easy-peasy.
Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker.Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker. Doing all three in China
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Now that sounds like a challenge!! Good luck studying Chinese!!
BTW, your friend’s name ‘Color’ made me smile!!
I love his name, but he’s a little embarrassed by it. I think when he originally told it to me, over 4 years ago when I first met him in a class, he didn’t expect to still be called it 4 years later and that we would be best friends. He changed his english name to use in professional situations, but in any situation I’m involved with it will always be color. 😉
To be fair, that verse that Color wrote would’ve stumped even a native Chinese speaker if they hadn’t studied Chinese poetry or classical Chinese.
I think that’s what he is banking on in 5 years when our bet comes “due.” We’ll see how I fare!