I really wish we had something like the Lo Wu Shopping Centre here in Palma. Three floors of restaurants, tailors, thousands of miles of fabric, three million Liberaces' worth of costume jewellery and fake art and handbags - oh! Not to mention custom made designer glasses and sunglasses. All for a fraction of the price elsewhere.
Several years ago I was having some clothes made and was standing chatting to my tailor, in one of the open style stalls surrounded by people having their nails done, when an American couple came up to me. They were black. Tall and big. The woman was in tears.
"You speak Chinese? I want to have some clothes made but they keep calling me nigger," she wailed. The husband was angry. "I had heard the Chinese were racist but this!"
I was glad to be able to comfort them, explaining that what sounds like the N-word in Mandarin, 那個，(romanised as 'na ge' but in speech often pronounced nega) in fact just means "that" or "that one" and is a kind of filler, like... well, "like"! Or er... or uh...
The Mandohooligans use it all the time. All the time. They have to, poor dears, because their language is impoverished by 70 years of communism where using words can land you in prison or a coffin, so the vocabulary is pared down to a safe minimum.
Who would think that the Land of the Free, USA, would become more and more like China, where uttering a word can get you in trouble? The University of Southern California has put lecturer Greg Patton on leave because he taught his students this filler.
What is wrong with these people? I mean, I try, I really try to respect the opinions of others, or at least not call them idiots in public. But this! It's not the first time news like that comes out of the USA. There was the government official (since rehired, perhaps they had a dictionary) who lost his job over saying the word 'niggardly', a sports writer fired for writing 'chink in the armour.'
In those cases it was their own language the ignorant baboons didn't know, which is bad enough. But in the case of "nega nega..." the students knew it was a completely different language, Mandarin, and that the word meant "that" and was a filler, and they STILL went into hysterics! There is a very apt comparison to be made here, and that is what went down in China during the Cultural revolution.
That's why I'm not laughing. It begins with people losing their livelihood, then comes book burning, then arrests. Then killings. Human nature doesn't change - it will oppress others when there is no risk of punishment, or better, when figures of authority (a baying mob) reward the atrocities.
Well, this - I mean the nega nega rigmarole, could all have been avoided if China had gone the smart route back in the 1920s and got rid of communism and then let Cantonese become the official language, if indeed that was necessary.
In Cantonese, 'that' is 嗰 個 goh go) and isn't used as a filler anyway; the language, being wonderfully rich and nuanced, is so stuffed with words that fillers become unnecessary. The words that are seen as fillers by some, actually have meaning and change the sentences or add to them. But you can hear all about that when you
But put them behind the wheel of a car and it's a different story. They become maniacs! Frothing, bumper-attacking maniacs. Of course all foreigners criticise the locals in the country they settle for being bad drivers, in fact all drivers criticise other drivers for being bad drivers, but I just find it surprising to see all this road rage amongst the calm and self possessed Mallorcans.
Why do normally mild mannered people turn into throbbing, screaming live wires of anger as soon as they have a gas pedal under their foot? I have a theory: A car, or rather, a driver, is like a baby. It has no words with which to berate the other driver, locked away in the little bubble as it is, so its only recourse is helpless rage. Tears would be undignified.
One country where foreigners (whitey) complain a lot about local drivers is China, and not without reason. But Chinese drivers don't seem to have much road rage; they don't have time.
One time hitch-hiking on a grey and rainy day in Tibet, the driver wore sunglasses and watched a film on an overhead monitor while driving, all the while rifling through his DVD collection and turning his head to chat leisurely with us. But I shouldn't have worried - this was on a straight, fairly wide road.
A few hours later we were driving across 5,000 metre mountains on a road are so narrow it could only accommodate one car, where one little mistake meant certain death; death by a thousand mile plunge. But I felt strangely safer, because that driver kept his eyes glued to the road.
I’ve experienced being in a car that crashed into traffic cones because the driver was busy texting, and I’ve spent more than one night on overnight buses keeping the driver awake because he kept nodding off and veering off the road. I’ve been in taxis trying to overtake trucks at the entrances of tunnels, or other cars near the tops of steep hills or at the beginning of a sharp bend.
These professional drivers (with the exception of truck drivers who mostly drive well, probably because they carry valuable cargo and not just humans) seem to think that nothing can happen now that they are safely within their little metal universe, and that other traffic is simply a nuisance to be conquered at all cost. As for questioning the absence of safety belts – “No need! The fine is only 1 yuan!”
Once in a taxi in the southern city of Guangzhou, I felt I was in some kind of action film like Speed. Not only did the driver try to overtake every car and bus in his way, hurtling at full speed and swerving wildly between lanes before slamming on the brakes just before the red light; he also drove with one hand and read the newspaper with the other.
That we were going along flyovers 30 - 40 metres above street level added a certain frisson, or... what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yes, shit scared! But the driver got angry when I suggested putting his paper down. That time I was the one with road rage; passenger road rage. It was a good thing I could speak Cantonese, eh? How else would I have been able to give that suicidal - no homicidal because he was the only one with a seatbelt - maniac the old what for.
Now you can soon be arguing with taxi drivers in their own language, while sticking it to the Mandohooligans! They have almost got rid of the Tibetan language - now they have cast their hungry eyes on Cantonese.
Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
In fact it's unusual for it to rain for a whole day without letup. I normally don't give a shit about the weather as long as it's not snowing, but I had just spent almost three weeks in Norway, where it also rained every day except three, during which I caught a nasty cold. I was well rained out, but instead of complaining, found solace in my new, leak-less dwelling.
Yes I was so happy to have found my new place on cool and happening Carrer de Robert Graves - so much better to live in a street named after a writer than a painter (Joan Miró) and a crappy one at that - a place where it doesn't rain in through the roof and no dirty water floods in underneath the main entrance and into the anteroom, below street level. Now I'm laughing at the torrential crap going on outside, although it's quite unpractical when it comes to dog walking.
However, my terrace did start leaking down on the car repair shop downstairs for the first time, but what do I care? The landlord's insurance will take care of it! Renting is great.
It was different in Hong Kong where I had to weatherproof my roof myself when the rain started dripping in through the concrete, but in all fairness, when it rained in Hong Kong it normally squeezed a year's worth of Mallorcan rain into a couple of hours, and it wasn't just the HK government's usual hysteria and over reaction when they sent out black storm weather warnings. It really was quite risky to go outside.
Hong Kong had fewer and fewer cobalt blue days in the last years I lived there, coinciding with increased pollution from mainland China just across the border. Burning blue sky days that were normally accompanied by temperatures up to 36 degrees, were rare enough to be much commented on and photographed.
One spring day on a dog walk I discovered a brand new tree that had never been there before. Or...? It turned out to be a flame tree, and I had never noticed it because it had never had the chance to bear flowers; they were normally always struck down by torrential rain in April...
In Mallorca it's the opposite, an overcast day with a few scattered drops during summer, elicits lifted eyebrows and comments. And where Hong Kong regularly has storms and typhoons bringing the city to a halt, torrential rain in Mallorca is so rare and surprising that people get caught out, as during a terrible on in 2018 where several people were washed off the roads and into the sea, never to be seen again.
So yesterday, the first rainless day in what had seemed like forever, had to be celebrated with a Sichuan meal. I cooked some delicious tofu to thank my friend P to look after Koldbrann while I was in Norway
and realised I hadn't cooked for people for so, so long! Not since August. This is an intolerable state of affairs, so I would remind everyone that Cecilie's Good Good Chinese Restaurant and Cooking Club has opened again in earnest, with all the wonderful flavours Sichuan province has to offer. And more! Yes more.
In addition to eating, you can also learn Cantonese. Two birds with one delicious, hilarious stone!
And if it should rain, we will be completely dry. I have walls! I have ceilings!