I had just finished talking to Peter on Skype and Alex gets the teapot out. He is going to make Chinese tea, so I go out to have some. He has a good quality tea and it is good to drink.
Often in the evenings when tea is made at this time of the day, his cousin and aunt come from upstairs too. Tonight in the room were eight of us.
I was sitting on the couch and Alex was beside me making the tea. It is a bit of a process. On his other side was his little five year old niece. I was watching TV, the English news. The niece had the Ipad going with some program she likes to watch, and it was blaring out in Mandarin.
On my right, in a chair is Alex’s cousin’s husband, quite a nice young man, who is on the phone in Mandarin. To Alex’s left is his father’s cousin, around sixty years old I guess, and beside him is Alex’s father. Opposite me, on a little stool is Alex’s cousin, aged about 30. They are getting settled when the aunty also aged about 60 walks in.
Alex is making tea for all, the ipad is blaring, I am watching TV in English and the cousin’s husband is on the phone in Mandarin.
Making the plans for this wedding seems rather a convoluted affair, and everyone has their tuppence worth to add. I think they are talking about where the reception is and how they are going to get there. They need several cars to get the bridal party etc down there. This entails quite a bit of talking, generally all at once, and in this case in several languages.
In most Chinese cities there is a local dialect which is nothing like Mandarin. So most people can speak several languages, they grow up with it. Alex says the little five year old can understand Mandarin and the local dialect. But Alex can’t understand it at all.
So we have the aunty, cousin and father’s cousin constantly switching from Mandarin to the local dialect depending on who they are talking to. Because there are so many little conversations going on amongst the seven of them, intermittent phone calls coming and going, and my English TV program they have to raise their voices to be heard over the others.
So Alex can understand some of it, the rest of them can understand all of it, and I am sitting there like a stunned mullet and can understand none of it. Also with all the noise, I can’t hear the TV either. Ah, for a nice quiet little chat.