Monday, April 15, 2013

Conversations with Ayi

Today I had an interesting conversation with our ayi, who was in the midst of her twice-a-week cleaning of our apartment. I thought I’d volunteer information and get a little ambitious about the topics. I mean, you can only discuss the weather (tianqi), the air quality (kongqi), and the arrival of spring (chuntian lai le) just so much.

So I decided to tell her the cat had hurt her leg when she tried to jump over a blanket this morning. She does this every once in a while and it leads to her limping for a few days and favoring one leg. She is 15 years old, after all.

“Wo de xiao mao teng,” I said to her, which I believe loosely translates to “my cat is hurt.” But I kept pointing to my arm. At this point a look of alarm appeared on Ayi’s face. I realized she was trying to figure out just which kind of scary concoction to cook for me since I clearly went outside, fell, and hurt my arm. Nothing that a little boiled pear couldn't help.

She rolled back my sleeve and pointed to my arm. No, no, I said, “wo de xiao mao” not me.

Ayi looked at me, and then looked at Smudge, who was sitting impassively on the rug. “Keep me out of this,” Smudge said. (I actually speak cat better than I speak Chinese.)

I went back to my computer. In a few minutes, I heard Ayi trying to talk to the cat, which she does by saying “miiii, miii” and chasing her around the apartment. I left my desk, hoping for a little cat-Chinese translation. Ayi looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Smudge also looked at me like I was only going to make matters worse. But then Smudge actually obliged me by limping to another spot on the rug and holding one of her paws just slightly off the ground. Ayi nodded knowingly. At least I convinced her of the injury, although I don't know that there's a traditional Chinese medicine solution for my cat.

I tried to look up the word “fell.” My options were fa, fell or cut down; kanfa, to fell trees; daofa, to fell trees unlawfully, yiju, one fell swoop; sheng ju mu duan, a rope can cut through a log, little strokes fell great oaks.

Never mind.  I made my point, even if it meant getting the cat irritated with me. 

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