The last few weeks I haven’t been writing much about my life here, but I’ve been intensifying my study of chinese characters. Instead of writing about whatever strikes me about my recent days, I’m more drawn to learn and copy new characters until I have them down. Each one that I learn seems to unlock other areas of difficulty in the language, so it’s coming together very slowly. It’s almost like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – once the pieces are into place you almost wonder how it didn’t make sense to you before. I got a book on Japanese kanji from Sascha which I’ve been leafing through a few times a day – I know the meaning of most of the characters, but nothing about the Japanese pronounciation. With some downloaded documents I’ve been learning more about Japanese and how it relates and compares to Chinese, starting with the Haragana and Katakana which are akin to learning pinyin for those who choose to approach Chinese. Although compared to Chinese, my exposure to Japanese is minimal, it seems much easier to learn and to speak.

Here’s some vocabulary that I’ve recorded over the last few days. Most of it is new, but not all; some of the words aren’t completely locked into my head or are ones that I don’t use or see often. If you can’t see the characters, here are instructions on how to fix that. Some of the words have interesting literal translations which are shockingly appropriate.

One last daily anecdote, then I’m off to sleep.

Today when I was walking around town with Ben, we saw a really odd-looking black van. It had no markings on it except for a few bold white characters which neither of us could read. Sitting atop the van and to the sides was a strange black metal frame, all around the vehicle. I didn’t have an idea what it was for, but we noticed small holes in the side of the van, below dark tinted windows, on both sides of the vehicle. We suspected that these were holes for protruding guns and our suspicions were confirmed when we spoke to a taxi driver about it. He told us that it was a counter-terrorist unit and elaborated that this region housed few terrorists, but that Xinjiang province (NW China), which has a large number of muslims, is regularly under attack by terrorists. If it weren’t for todays unusual sighting I don’t think I’d have any reason to learn how to say terrorist in Chinese. I suppose that barely any corner of the earth is entirely unaffected by this evolution of guerilla warfare.

But I’ll sleep on a happy note because I’ve been listening to Fleetwood Mac the last hour.