[Note from Noel : from all the way below Down Under to near the Roof of the World, advance b-day greetings to a most charismatic leader in SJCS batch 82, excellent basketball varsitarian, and friend to all, Mr Andy Lim ! PS: If Mr Criss Angel’s skills as above shown are real, then he has no need for regular memory the way we folks do!]
UNLESS we’re trying to speed up an order at a takeaway or people above a certain age we encounter will be cheered up by even a few familiar sounding words from the motherland, we don’t even try to speak Chinese anymore, it’s simply too laborious now and we elicit too many snickers (not the sweet-and-nutty kind) nowadays.
Although we understand what is heard and spoken a good part of the time by Mainlanders (sometimes called Communist Chinese), Taiwanese and various Overseas Chinese from Southeast Asia, and we even get the general idea when we see headlines on either of the two Chinese community newspapers here, our much-vaunted first-rate Chinese language tuition is now a fainter-than-faint shadow of its high school self.
At various times I’ve been either encouraged and discouraged to butt in whenever I hear the language I learned from childhood to puberty, but mostly I get awkward looks and the impression that I sound like a person who just materialized out of a bad Sammo Hung movie.
Any lingering doubts I may have had about any illusions as a credible Chinese speaker came when I tried to engage esposa hermosa‘s (EH) colleague (from Shanghai) at the sushi bar where she works : Is there a great question mark in your stomach, comrade? I confidently asked her after a long shift.
She answered my embarrassingly silly question (I meant to ask if she was hungry) with two more questions : D’you know yo Mandarrrin is worse than my English, heeheehee and anyone told you that nobody uses “comrade” anymore, friend ? which made me blush harder than a crimson Chinese lantern. :”)
After work, EH asked me what the joke was all about, and when I answered there was none, she said there must have been, as her Chinese workmate and countrymen had a great laugh for quite a while. That was the end of Chinese-speaking Noel.
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The sad, ironic part is like many extensive chunks of knowledge we acquire and then forget, the bytes and voluminous details are no longer there, but we are vaguely aware of the length, breadth, value and even beauty of the data we have lost. Stroke for stroke, word for word, and as idioms, syntax and proverbs go, Chinese is probably one of the most efficient (not to mention beautiful) languages in the world, but of course you can only take my word for it, as I am aware of only two other tongues. And I don’t know, after spending more than four years half an ocean away from home, how much Tagalog I’ll retain after a few more years.
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I find that whether because of preconditioned mental fatigue (brought about by its physical counterpart), preconditioned loss of focus, or just plain loss of interest, I can no longer finish watching a complete game of NBA basketball. I still enjoy favorite players and teams, the drama of the playoffs, and seeing favorite crybabies topple over their unrealistic egoes and promises. But to watch one-and-a-half hours of ten millionaires passing a ball around every 24 seconds before dumping it to their superstar for the requisite jump shot / lay-up / ho-hum slam dunk over an 82-game season no longer pumps adrenaline into my system as it did in my teens and 20s.
Worse of all, somewhere before halftime or even between one-fourth to one-third of the game, I have actually forgotten the combatant teams, who’s winning or even who’s playing superior basketball. Because the product itself hardly provides entertainment or even interest that it used to, it takes lots of energy to even update myself on constant changes like scores, lead changes and game time remaining.
Because interest and focus and memory reserves are all intertwined and interdependent, we realize that our minds need the equivalent of an external hard drive, otherwise we prioritize our pursuits and passions, into merely what we need to remember, for survival. At least, that’s what the empirical sum of my experience tells me.
It’s absolutely heretical to our culture of multi-tasking, multi-media markets and multi-media caressing our five senses, but if we can only focus on one song, or one article, or one website (for the most part) or one channel / program per second of our lives, where is the satiety point or satiety level before we scream that thousand-channel cable TV, ultra high speed internet, internet TV or 4G technology is more than we can handle?
If every bit of information is accessible and available at our fingertips, is anything worth remembering anymore?
Thanks for reading!
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