Our ayi is skilled at many things, not the least of which is understanding my extremely imperfect Mandarin. From Day One, she’s shown herself adept at finding the intended meaning in my messy tones and bungled syntax.
So, today’s conversation took us both by surprise. It went like this:
Ayi: “Do you want me to cook some food today?” [She stir-fries veggies for us once or twice a week]
Me: “I was thinking some tang would be good. Y’know, since it’s cold outside.”
Ayi [looking a tiny bit confused]: “Tang? Like, what kind of tang?”
Me: “Well, we have chicken, and garlic, and green beans. You could put them in this pot and make some tang.”
Ayi: “Chicken? You want me to make tang with chicken in this pot?”
Me: “Yeah, and please use the water from the water jug, not the tap, since we’ll be eating it, you know, because it’s tang.”
Ayi [very confused now]: “Um. What kind of tang?”
Me [also confused—she has made soup in the past and it was good]: “Just simple chicken tang.”
Ayi [grinning broadly]: “OH! You want tang! Sure, I can make tang. I thought you wanted tang.”
Me: “Oh, jeez, I’m so sorry. No. That would be really gross.”
Tang (2nd tone) is sugar, and the word can refer to “candy” or “something sweet.” Tang (1st tone) means soup.
Oh, and when you eat soup, you’re sure to say, “Careful, it’s tang (4th tone),” which means it’s hot.
With three months left to go, the adventure continues on the daily.