In one of my recent assignments for the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, I spent time reporting on a group of Chinese tourists who were in town recently. Having spent eight months from 1996-1997 studying the Chinese Basic Course at Defense Language Institute (Mandarin Chinese, specifically), it was a thrilling assignment.
As I took pictures, I listened to them talk. My Mandarin is very rusty, even much more so than my Russian, but I could pick up words here and there as they tried on cowboy hats. I would learn during the interview that cowboy hats aren’t common in China. They’re mostly worn for fashion purposes by women, and among men, they’re more popular among the artistic types. Surely, there are cattle in China. It makes me wonder what the niu zai in China wear, and, looking back, I regret not asking. Interviews tend to be quick and to the point when you’re doing it mostly through a translator.
Still, a few times I got to show off what Chinese I can still speak — much to the group’s satisfaction:
How you’d say hello to a group of people. They immediately smiled and responded back, “你好!”
They sounded pleasantly surprised that an American could speak Chinese.
So, I decided to introduce myself…
Later, they wanted me to tell them how I could speak Chinese, but they wanted me to speak in Chinese.
Here’s what I said, for better or worse:
It’s supposed to mean: “I studied Chinese at Defense Language Institute in 1996.”
And they sounded like they understood it.
“What’s your favorite Chinese phrase to say in America?” the translator asked me.
I said: “请你给我筷子.”
They all laughed. Heartily. It’s a phrase you say to a waiter in a Chines restaurant when you’d like to have chopsticks.
Finally, I wrote down the name I was assigned when I studied Chinese. My given first and last name is Richard Zowie, and in Chinese, I was known as Zuo Ruicha. Or:
Side note: one of my teachers at DLI at the Presidio of Monterey, California, was Wang Lao Shi (Lao Shi means “teacher.”) Her full given name, last name then first name, was Wang Manglin. She would probably be in her sixties now. If anyone knows where she is, please let me know. I’d love to chat with her again.
Richard Zowie studied Mandarin Chinese at DLI from 1996-1997, before transferring into the Russian Basic Course. Post comments here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently wrote a story about a filmmaker who made a documentary about a 90-year-old cold case. In 1927, a young girl’s body was found in Fredericksburg, Texas. Ten days later, after nobody claimed the body, she was buried in a local cemetery. Boy Scouts went door to door to collect funds.
In 15-plus years I’ve been a journalist, it was one of the toughest stories to write. The young girl was murdered, and her assailant has never been found, nor does anyone know why she was murdered. Her name remains a mystery. She never grew up, never got to live a life, get married, have kids, grow old. She remains a young girl, frozen in time.
Her story reminded me of some creepy stories I’ve heard over the years from friends and acquaintances…
…The lady whose aunt, in 1982 in Los Angeles, walked to a grocery store. She never returned home. I first heard the story in 2002, and after 20 years, police still had absolutely no clues…
…An actor friend who acted in a horror movie based an abandoned car on a California highway. The car was registered to a woman, who had disappeared. She was never found.
The case gets especially heartbreaking when you go to the FBI website and look up missing persons reports. You will drown in the results.
Lord willing, that little girl’s mystery will be solved.
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It’s been tough to geocache lately, since I’ve gotten most of them where I live in Fredericksburg, Texas. The most recent one was fun: you had to find the sun and planets and use the numbers on each planet to solve a puzzle that revealed the coordinates for the geocache. The person who created that was kind enough to include Pluto among the planets.
After finding one in Falls City, Texas on Saturday, I noted with dismay of all the towns in the Slavic corridor of Highway 181 in South Texas, only Poth has no geocaches. One friend, a lover of puns, called it, “Pothetic.”
I’ve found several in Beeville, Texas (where I grew up) to take my total to 131.
One I’ve not been able to find is somewhere in downtown Beeville near a store that has since closed. The description includes a staircase that leads somewhere unknown. Perhaps it was muggled.