March updates with impending COVID-19 outbreak

I hope all of you (US) are getting prepared (or are prepared) for and educated on COVID-19.

For one thing, it has been good for the girls to be fluent in Chinese during China’s early battle against COVID-19, when much of the primary source of information were in Chinese.  Our whole family have been keeping tab on COVID-19 development on news commentary shows from Taiwan, like 關鍵時刻 and 年代向錢看, that provide daily analysis on weekdays, with the “real story” from China, Korea, Japan, and the rest of the world.  Armed with such information, we were able to start preparing early on (before price gouging on some items) and even saved some money by getting out of stock mutual fund before the stock market started crashing for our retirement account.  The girls also read a couple of Chinese newspaper clips on COVID-19.

CHINESE POP BAND: COVID-19 did force the cancellation of one of our band performances in February, which was just fine, since we already performed three times over the winter.  Our band’s next performance will be in May, for Mother’s Day, but that will likely be canceled with how things are going now.  So, the girls are primarily working on our own band songs now.

CHINESE DEBATE:  As a result of COVID-19, Debate Asia (亞洲盃中文辯論錦標賽) has not make announcement on its 6th annual competition, 六國封相. It was going to be held in China in late July but, obviously, this is now extremely unlikely to take place.  The coach is looking into an alternative competition in Taiwan in July, 蘇州盃高中職辯論錦標賽.  This competition was previously limited to high school teams in Taiwan, but is now open to international teams for the first time.  Though Taiwan has done an exceptional job so far in her battle against COVID-19, anything can happen between now and July.  By then, air travel and large gathering may still be risky and there may be travel restrictions to Taiwan from the US, at the rate this is going.  So, I am not optimistic that the girls will be able to compete this summer.  But, regardless, the team is still training and that’s what counts.  At this point, the team is working on “Should UBI (universal basic income) replace means-tested welfare programs?”

CHINESE READING: DD#2 is pretty done with 7th grade first semester CLA textbook from Taiwan.  The last lesson she practiced reading aloud was a 1925 essay “背影“ by 朱自親.  It was the second to the last chapter but I have her skip the last chapter since it was just a simple short story.

朱自清

我與父親不相見已二年餘了,我最不能忘記的是他的背影。那年冬天,祖母死了,父親的差使也交卸了,正是禍不單行的日子!我從北京到徐州,打算跟著父親奔喪回家。到徐州見著父親,看見滿院狼藉的東西,又想起祖母,不禁簌簌地流下眼淚。父親說:「事已如此,不必難過,好在天無絕人之路!」
回家變賣典質,父親還了虧空,又借錢辦了喪事。這些日子,家中光景很是慘澹,一半為了喪事,一半為了父親賦閒○8。喪事完畢,父親要到南京謀事,我也要回北京念書,我們便同行。
到南京時,有朋友約去遊逛,勾留了一日;第二日上午便須渡江到浦口,下午上車北去。父親因為事忙,本已說定不送我,叫旅館裡一個熟識的茶房陪我同去。他再三囑咐茶房,甚是仔細。但他終於不放心,怕茶房不妥帖,頗躊躇了一會。其實我那年已二十歲,北京已來往過兩三次,是沒有什麼要緊的了。他躊躇了一會,終於決定還是自己送我去。我兩三回勸他不必去,他只說:「不要緊,他們去不好!」
我們過了江,進了車站。我買票,他忙著照看行李。行李太多了,得向腳夫行些小費才可過去。他便又忙著和他們講價錢。我那時真是聰明過分,總覺他說話不大漂亮,非自己插嘴不可。但他終於講定了價錢,就送我上車。他給我揀定了靠車門的一張椅子,我將他給我做的紫毛大衣鋪好座位。他囑我路上小心,夜裡要警醒些,不要受涼;又囑託茶房好好照應我。我心裡暗笑他的迂,他們只認得錢,託他們直是白託!而且我這樣大年紀的人,難道還不能料理自己麼?唉!我現在想想,那時真是太聰明了!
我說道:「爸爸,您走吧!」他望車外看了看,說:「我買幾個橘子去,你就在此地不要走動。」我看那邊月臺的柵欄外,有幾個賣東西的等著顧客。走到那邊月臺,須穿過鐵道,須跳下去又爬上去。父親是一個胖子,走過去自然要費事些。我本來要去的,他不肯,只好讓他去。我看見他戴著黑布小帽,穿著黑布大馬褂,深青布棉袍,蹣跚地走到鐵道邊,慢慢探身下去,尚不大難。可是他穿過鐵道,要爬上那邊月臺,就不容易了。他用兩手攀著上面,兩腳再向上縮,他肥胖的身子向左微傾,顯出努力的樣子。這時我看見他的背影,我的淚很快地流下來了。我趕緊拭乾了淚,怕他看見,也怕別人看見。我再向外看時,他已抱了朱紅的橘子望回走了。過鐵道時,他先將橘子散放在地上,自己慢慢爬下,再抱起橘子走。到這邊時,我趕緊去攙他。他和我走到車上,將橘子一股腦兒放在我的皮大衣上。於是撲撲衣上的泥土,心裡很輕鬆似的。過一會說:「我走了,到那邊來信!」我望著他走出去。他走了幾步,回過頭看見我,說:「進去吧,裡邊沒人!」等他的背影混入來來往往的人裡,再找不著了,我便進來坐下,我的眼淚又來了。
近幾年來,父親和我都是東奔西走,家中光景是一日不如一日。我北來後,他寫了一封信給我,信中說道:「我身體平安,惟膀子疼痛得厲害,舉箸提筆,諸多不便,大約大去之期不遠矣!」我讀到此處,在晶瑩的淚光中,又看見那肥胖的青布棉袍、黑布馬褂的背影。唉!我不知何時再能與他相見!

 

Instead of having DD#2 move unto 7th grade second semester textbook, I now just ask her to do readings on the AP Chinese study guide (and typing).  I figure she might as well get it started and take the AP exam either in 9th grade or 10th grade.  DD#1 ended up not being able to take the AP Chinese exam this year (11th grade) since the schools that offer it locally (not available at her own school) ran out of spots early.  It might as well be that way since she would have to take her AP Bio exam in the morning and then get to another school for afternoon’s AP Chinese exam.  That may end up to be too much of a rush.  Oh well….

 

CHINESE TV SERIES:

DD#2 finished watching 皓蘭傳, a 2019’s historical fictional TV series, which was loosely based on the life story of the 趙姬, the mother of 秦始王 (Qin Shi-Huang), who was the “first” emperor of China at around 200 BC.  So, DD#2 learned about 呂不韋 of 呂氏春秋, 長平之戰 in which Qin buried 200,000 surrendered soldiers alive, and how 秦始王 came about.

 

 

Now, we shifted back to 金庸’s work, 鹿鼎記, which will provide DD#2 with the historical background surrounding the first phase of the Qing dynasty in the 17th century.  For those of you who know this novel, you won’t find it surprising that my DD#2 is having a blast watching 偉小寶!  We are watching the 2014 TV series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

「兒時記趣」朗讀 (Childhood Story)

兒時記趣 (Childhood story) is a famous piece of writing by an author (沈復) of the Ching Dynasty and is often taught in the Chinese Language Art textbook in junior high school.  It is an example of classical Chinese.  I had never heard of it before, as I left Taiwan after fifth grade.  Nevertheless, since it is on the 7th grade first semester CLA textbook we received as a hand-me-down from a relative in Taiwan, I thought it would be good for DD#2 to study a couple of short passages such as this.

「兒時記趣」

作者:沈復 (1763-1825)

余憶童稚時,能張目對日,明察秋毫。見藐小微物,必細察其紋理,故時有物外之趣。

夏蚊成雷,私擬作群鶴舞空,心之所向,則或千或百,果然鶴也;昂首觀之,項為之強。又留蚊於素帳中,徐噴以煙,使之沖煙飛鳴,作青雲白鶴觀;果如鶴唳雲端,為之怡然稱快。

又常於土牆凹凸處、花臺小草叢雜處,蹲其身,使與臺齊;定神細視,以叢草為林,蟲蟻為獸;以土礫凸者為丘,凹者為壑,神遊其中,怡然自得。

一日,見二蟲鬥草間,觀之,興正濃,忽有龐然大物,拔山倒樹而來,蓋一癩蝦蟆也。舌一吐而二蟲盡為所吞。余年幼,方出神,不覺呀然驚恐。神定,捉蝦蟆,鞭數十,驅之別院。

 

Here is DD’s read-aloud:

 

Here is an educational video on it:

 

Supposedly the following last paragraph is omitted and not taught since it is not rated G, more like PG, 🤣.

年長思之,二蟲之鬥,蓋圖奸不從也,古語云:「奸近殺。」 蟲亦然耶?貪此生涯,卵為蚯蚓所哈,腫不能便,捉鴨開口哈之,婢嫗偶釋手,鴨顛其頸作吞噬狀,驚而大哭,傳為語柄。此皆幼時閑情也。

Christmas band performance 12-2019

Our “Tu & Only” band was invited to perform again at Atlanta Chinese Medical Society’s Christmas/New Year celebration this year.  My DDs spent hours honing down their performances and did a fantastic job last night!  They each received an outstanding volunteering award for all the hard work they put into supporting the nonprofit organization.

我們的「杜ㄧ無二」樂團再次受邀在亞特蘭大華人醫師協會今年的聖誕新年晚會表演。兩位女兒練習良久,昨晚表現很好,對她們的中文也都有幫助,以她們為榮!我們表演了周杰倫2007年的「不能說的秘密」和李克勤1992年的廣東話經典歌曲「紅日」(小女兒不會說廣東話,發音不標準,請見諒~)

Easy instant annotation tool from Mandarinspot.com

It has been a while since I used Mandarinspot.com, a clever site someone coded a few years back.  Mandarinspot.com provides an easy to use tool to annotate online Chinese text with 注音 or 拼音 and English definition. Pop-up annotation tooltips open when you move mouse over the word.

For example, my DDs are working on a Chinese debate on the topic of mandatory vaccination.  There is a Chinese Wikipedia page on vaccine hesitancy.  So, I copy and paste the link under “Web site annotation” as below.

 

Enlarged:

After clicking “Annotate”, it leads me to a Mandarin Spot version of this webpage.  If I don’t know the pronunciation or meaning of certain Chinese characters or words, hovering the mouse over the word will bring up a box with the Chinese pronunciation (注音 in this case) and English meaning.  Pretty nifty, no?

You can do the same with pinyin.  Just change the phonetic system above to pinyin.

 

Reflection on 7th grade Chinese Language Art textbook

7th grade CLA textbook
First semester, chapter 5
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My DD#2 is working on chapter 5 this week.  There are a couple of words that I can’t pronounce either, having gone through 5th grade in Taiwan 30+ years ago.  So, we learn together.
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I was able to read 金庸 novels and newspaper just fine by my mid teens, without additional lessons in Chinese, which is likely a typical experience for youth immigrants who had received ~ 4th grade education in Taiwan/China and kept on reading afterwards.
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Looking at my DD reading aloud this chapter, I am like, yeah, they will be just fine with their Chinese.  What a relief!
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We can work on her Spanish more now…. 🤣。 It happens I also grew up in a Spanish speaking country, in my teens.
心囚

杏林子

在許多人眼裡,我看來多麼像是一個囚犯,一個被病禁錮○1在床的犯人。
是的,自從小學六年級時,我被一種叫做「類風溼關節炎」的怪病纏身之後,就逐漸失去活動的自由。年復一年,我全身的關節都受到病魔的「轄制○2」,有如戴上一道道無形的鐐銬○3。
腿不能行,肩不能舉,手不能彎,頭也不能自由轉動。甚至,我連吃一口心愛的牛肉乾的權利也被剝奪了,因為咬不動。
二十多年來,生活的天地僅限於六席○4大的斗室○5之中,屋外春去秋來,花開花謝,似乎都與我無干○6了。就像一個被判無期徒刑的犯人,不知何年何月才能重見「天日」。
想像中,這樣的「犯人」一定是蒼白憔悴○7、鬱鬱寡歡○8的吧!剛剛相反,因為我了解真正能夠囚住我的,不是身體上的疾病,而是心理上失望、悲觀、頹喪○9、憤怒、憂慮,築成了一面看不見的網,隨時準備將我陷在中間。一個人只要能突破心靈的枷鎖○10,這個世界就再也沒有什麼能困住他的了。如今,我活得無憂無慮,也自由自在。而世上多的是身體健康,卻心理不健全的人;多的是表面歡樂,卻心中痛苦的人;多的是行動自如,卻找不到一條正確人生方向的人。
有些人看似生活得繁華熱鬧,卻往往是天底下最寂寞的人,因為他們把自己的心封閉了。
還有那些沉溺○11在罪惡中無法自拔,迷戀在情慾中無法脫身,以及為名利權勢所左右○12迷失了自己的人,他們看似自由,卻心陷囹圄○13。
比起我,到底誰更像是囚犯呢?

注釋
○1禁錮:囚禁。錮,音ㄍㄨˋ,封閉、監禁。
○2轄制:管轄限制。轄,音ㄒㄧㄚˊ,管制。
○3鐐銬:音ㄌㄧㄠˊ ㄎㄠˋ,刑具。鐐,鎖住腳的刑具。銬,鎖住手的刑具。
○4席:通「蓆」,三尺寬、六尺長為一蓆。
○5斗室:狹小的房間。
○6無干:沒有關係。干,關聯。
○7憔悴:音ㄑㄧㄠˊ ㄘㄨㄟˋ,面色黃瘦,沒有精神的樣子。
○8鬱鬱寡歡:悶悶不樂。寡,少。
○9頹喪:情緒消沉低落。頹,音ㄊㄨㄟˊ。
○10枷鎖:原指刑具,引申為束縛。枷,套在脖子上的刑具。鎖,拴在犯人身上的鎖鏈。
○11沉溺:指陷於不好的嗜好或境地中。溺,音ㄋㄧˋ。
○12左右:影響、控制。
○13囹圄:音ㄌㄧㄥˊ ㄩˇ,牢獄。

7th grade Chinese Language Art

DD#2, 13, 8th grade now, is moving unto 7th grade Chinese Language Art textbook from Taiwan.  Her Chinese lessons now mainly consist of reading aloud to fluency Chinese Language Art textbooks and doing Chinese debate, besides watching 「如懿傳」(Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace).  This movie series sits nicely between the two series she previously watched,「後宮甄嬛傳」and 「延熙攻略」.

Here is the first chapter she is working on, which is chapter 2 of 康軒’s 7th grade second semester textbook.  I previously couldn’t acquire the first semester book.

下雨天,真好(琦君)

一大清早,掀開窗簾看看,窗上已撒滿了水珠。啊,好極了!又是個下雨天。雨連下十天,半月,甚至一個月,屋裡掛滿萬國旗似的溼衣服,牆壁地板都冒著溼氣,我也 不抱怨。雨天總是把我帶到另一個處所,在那兒,我又可以重享歡樂的童年。那些有趣的好時光啊,我要用雨珠的鍊子把它串起來,繞在手腕上。

那時在浙江永嘉老家,我才六歲,睡在母親暖和的手臂彎裡。天亮了,聽到瓦背上嘩嘩的雨聲,我就放了心。因為下雨天長工不下田,母親不用老早起來做飯,可以在 熱被窩裡多躺會兒。我捨不得再睡,也不讓母親睡,吵著要她講故事。母親閉著眼睛,給我講雨天的故事。在熹微的晨光中,我望著母親的臉,她的額角方方正正, 眉毛細細長長,眼睛瞇成一條線。我的啟蒙老師說菩薩慈眉善目,母親的長相一定就跟菩薩一樣。

雨下得越來越大。母親一起床,我也跟著起來,顧不得吃早飯,就套上叔叔的舊皮靴,頂著雨在院子裡玩。溝裡水滿了,白繡球花瓣落在爛泥地和水溝裡。我把阿榮伯 給我雕的小木船漂在水溝裡,中間坐著母親給我縫的大紅「布姑娘」。繡球花瓣繞著小木船打轉,一起向前流。我跟著小木船在爛泥地裡踩水,吱嗒吱嗒的響。

天下雨,長工們不下田,都蹲在大穀倉後面玩。我把小花猫抱在懷裡,自己再坐在阿榮伯懷裡,等著阿榮伯把一粒粒又香又脆的炒豆子剝殼送到我嘴裡。豆子吃夠了再吃芝麻糖,嘴巴乾了吃橘子。下雨天真好,有吃有玩,長工們個個疼我,家裡人多,我就不寂寞了。

五月黃梅天,到處黏糊糊的,母親走進走出的抱怨,父親卻端者宜興茶壺,坐在廊下賞雨。院子裡各種花木,經雨一淋,新綠的枝子頑皮的張開翅膀,托著嬌豔的花 朵,父親用旱煙袋點著它們告訴我這是丁香花,那是一丈紅。大理花與劍蘭搶著開,木樨花散布著淡淡的幽香。牆邊那株高大的玉蘭花開了滿樹,下雨天謝得快,我得趕緊爬上去採,採了滿籃子送左右鄰居。玉蘭樹葉上的水珠都是香的。

唱鼓兒詞的總在下雨天從我家後門摸索進來,坐在廚房的長凳上,唱一段「鄭元和學丐」。母親一邊做飯,一邊聽。淚水掛滿了臉頰,拉起青布圍裙擦一下,又連忙盛 一大碗滿滿的白米飯,請瞎子先生吃,再給他一大包的米。晚上就在大廳裡唱,請左鄰右舍都來聽。寬敝的大廳正中央燃起了亮晃晃的燈,燈一亮,我就有做喜事的 感覺,心裡說不出的開心。雨嘩嘩的越下越大,瞎子先生的鼓咚咚咚咚的也敲得越起勁。母親和五叔婆聽了眼圈兒都哭得紅紅的,我就只顧吃炒米糕、花生糖。父親卻悄悄的溜進書房作他的「唐詩」去了。

如果我一直不長大,就可以永遠沉浸在雨的歡樂中。然而誰能不長大呢?到杭州念中學了,下雨天,我有一股淒涼寂寞之感。

有一次,在雨中徘徊西子湖畔。我駐足凝望著碧藍如玉的湖水和低斜低斜的梅花,卻聽得放鶴亭中響起了悠揚的笛聲。那是許多年前的事了,笛聲低沉而遙遠,然而我卻仍能依稀聽見,在雨中…。