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In China
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

 The Language Barrier - or - “I think our new parents may be stupid. Nice, but stupid.”

Over the last couple of days, several people have commented on the strength of Ellie and Sam’s Chinese – “For children so young their Chinese is excellent!” After hearing our meager attempts at “Ni Hao” and “Shie Shie,” they have been notably less impressed with our Chinese skills – “For adults so old, your Chinese is terrible!” (I knew I should have opted for the Rosetta Stone course instead of relying on “Ni Hao Kailan” for my Chinese language training… although I do feel incredibly well prepared if a friendly tiger with balloons or a monkey with flowers shows up later today.)

We have been impressed with how much English they know. (Embarrassingly, our Chinese children know far more English than their American parents know Chinese.)

This gives our children a decided advantage over us in the communication department.

First, it allows them to talk about us while we are in the room without us knowing what they are saying. While my Kaelin Chinese cannot say for sure, I really think Ellie said, “If you turn your head like this, the tall one will give you anything you want. I cite the cookie in my left hand and the Barbie in my right as evidence.”

Second, it gives them the power of translation…especially Ellie. Her English seems stronger than Sammy’s, so we frequently ask her to translate when Sammy needs something.

This was especially important…although somewhat awkward… when she translated “Nyo Nyo” for us. We NOW know that “Nyo Nyo” means “Pee Pee” or “Potty,” but we did not know this when Sammy first began to repeat it incessantly on Monday afternoon. When we asked Ellie for help, she walked over and pulled down his pants for him… in a public park on a busy street…where he proceeded to “Nyo Nyo” right on the ground. (NOTE to self: We need to quickly learn the translation for “Poo Poo” before leaving the building again.)

But perhaps the greatest translation moment came earlier today. Sammy began to repeat “Ching Sha” over and over again. He tried to be polite about it, walking over and repeating it slowly for his new parents who obviously have some kind of intellectual delay. “Ching… Sha…” he repeated over and over… becoming slower and louder with each repeat.

We obviously wanted to help, but we just stared at him with the blank but friendly faces that accurately reflected our status as clueless.

This is when I decided to ask Ellie. “Ellie, what does Ching Sha mean?” Ellie looked up from her episode of “Happy Goat” and politely turned to respond to me. “Ching Sha,” she said matter-of-factly… as if that were going to solve my problem.

I repeated my request. “Ellie, what is Ching Sha? Can you show me?” Still sweetly and politely, she said… in a higher octave and more slowly… “Ching. Sha. Ching Sha.” Then turned back to her show.

This was clearly not getting us anywhere, but I tried one more time. “Ellie, Can you show me the Ching Sha?”

At this point, something seemed to click. She nodded her head and stood up. She then walked very purposefully over to where I was sitting.

She grabbed the side of my face, and directly into my ear she yelled, “CHING SHA!!!”

I don’t want to make her seem mean in this response. Even her yell had a sweetness to it. In retrospect, it reminded me of when I would visit my Gramma Cissell in the hospital. After she failed to hear me on the first several times I asked a question, I would get right up next to her and yell it into her ear.

At that moment, I think Ellie’s smile was the recognition that her parents were not dumb… they were just deaf.

At that moment, Anne and I literally fell onto the floor in laughter. We laughed HARD for several minutes… and eventually both Sam and Ellie joined us on the floor. They did not know what was so funny to their mentally challenged, but it seemed like fun to roll on the floor together.

When we eventually stopped laughing and wiped away the tears, Ellie walked me by hand to the closet and pointed to the Chinese biscuits that she and Sammy had been eating earlier. “Ching Sha” she said sweetly.

Got it. “Ching Sha” = Chinese biscuits.

Now I have to go find out about “poop”…

With the papers on that desk, Ellie and Sam OFFICIALLY became Jutts!

Two cute kids... and a noticeably missing letter "I" in the sign above. (See yesterday for details.)

Ellie likes to comb Anne's hair. I cannot be sure, but I
think she asked in Chinese, "Are you using a novel polymer-silicone blend in your shampoo? It's wonderful!"

I love my mom (and red date yogurt)!

I ALSO like red date yogurt... and my mom, too!


Can I assume that the pre-school curriculum you've selected for me will include calculus?


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