I mailed a letter to Stick yesterday. The clerk took a look at the envelope, on which I’d slowly and painfully copied out ??, ??? onto the envelope. If speaking faster and mumbling more is the key to spoken Chinese, then sloppy writing is the key to written Chinese. Extra points for not lifting your pen. I have been preparing my whole life for ideal Chinese handwriting.
“Where would you like to send this letter?” the clerk asked.
“Letter to Rome city Italy.” (Oh yeah, this conversation is in Chinese, in case my stunning lack of grammar and vocabulary didn’t tip you off)
“Would you like to send this letter to America?”
“No America. Italy.”
She looked at her coworker. “This foreigner wants to send a letter to America, but she wrote Italy here and she doesn’t understand me when I told her that. What should I do?”
“Letter not to America. Letter to Italy.” I pointed at the characters. “Yi da li. Writing Italy, yes?” The two girls shrugged at the crazed foreigner who’d clearly forgotten her home country, but they did agree to sell me stamps.
When I was in Roman history classes in college, I often imagined situations in which I’d say something like “going to Rome”. I just didn’t know I’d be saying it in Chinese.