Speaking Chinese with my landlord

My landlord has come round almost every day for the last week. First, it was to watch over various plasterers, painters and blowtorch-wielding trapeze artists who were hired to fix the leak above the window in my bedroom.

Since that got fixed, he’s been coming here to show around prospective tenants. He arrived at 1pm and he’s still here at 5pm. Still waiting for the people to show up to view the apartment.

My Chinese is pathetic but I’ve done my best to communicate with him. He asked me where I lived in the UK. My answer (in Chinese):

“Don’t live in London. My mother, father small village.”

He graciously accepted my semi-retarded response. Then he asked where I went to university. I looked up ‘Oxford’ in the dictionary and answered:

“Oxford has two universities. One good. One not good. I go not good.”

Which is the best endorsement of Oxford Brookes that I could muster. He asked what I studied. I looked up ‘philosophy’ in the dictionary and showed him that. He said:

“什么什么什么 Hitler 什么什么什么. Good or not?”

I didn’t know if I’d heard correctly. “Hitler?”

“Chinese name is ‘Hitler’. Do you know?”

I don’t know how to say “Do you mean Adolf Hitler, the Austrian-born dictator of Nazi Germany and murderer of six million Jews?” in Chinese, so I said: “Hitler? German man?”

“Yes. Good or not?”

“Not Good.”

This went on for some time. For hours. He taught me a few words of Beijing dialect, I taught him how to say ‘How are you?’ and ‘Have you eaten?’. I admire his endurance. If the situation were reversed and I had a tenant who didn’t speak my language, I would do my best not to engage him in conversation. But the landlord really goes for it. He’s a very nice man though. I’ve been lucky with this apartment.

You might wonder why I wasn’t at work. The answer is that as a special treat for my last week at work, they totally fucked up my schedule. I’ve had hardly any hours this week and won’t have a proper chance to say goodbye to some students and staff that I’ve known for a long time now.


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