During freshman orientation week at Princeton, back when I was still dead set on studying Italian, I attended a "Foreign Languages" info session, just to see what was what. I still remember vividly one professor's praise of the Chinese department:
"And in just two years — that's one year of beginning Chinese at Princeton followed by a summer in Beijing followed by another year at Princeton — you'll be able to read a Chinese newspaper."
Granted, Princeton Chinese is pretty freaking awesome and the last thing I want to do is sully its name, but I feel the need to make it clear to future generations of students that the sentence above is a huge crockpot full of cow feces. Or maybe I should say, a hugely misleading crockpot full of cow feces. Yes, after 3 years of Princeton Chinese plus 2 months in Beijing and 9 months in Guangzhou I can "read" Chinese, but only in the sense that an archeologist can "read" Egyptian hieroglyphics. See I, perhaps naively, thought that "read a Chinese newspaper" meant "read a Chinese newspaper with ease while you dunk your doughnut into your mug of green tea or whatever it is that Chinese people do when they eat breakfast". But apparently it means "take the better part of an hour to read one article about mango tree prophylactics":
I often buy newspapers here and leaf through them in an attempt to feel cosmopolitan, but rarely will I read a whole article all the way through, simply because it takes soooooooo long. This one however, I can confidently tell you, is about the municipality of Zhongshan instituting a program of chemical defruitification on the city's green mango trees in an attempt to curb the number of mango-related injuries to citizens, including fruit falling spontaneously onto the heads of passers-by as well as injuries sustained by citizens attempting to launch themselves high enough to pluck one. So there.
In other news, I managed to pluck one for myself from a tree outside our apartment (without injuring myself or others):
Waiting until our security guard was out of sight, I lept upward with the noble grace of a flying squirrel, used the crook end of my umbrella to yoink-detach the plumpest mango in the grove, which I then caught with my left hand just a millisecond after own my legs reunited with the ground. Maybe you had to be there, but I can assure you that it was an awe-inspiring sight. Still haven't eaten it though; feels a little hard.