There’s a popular song here that includes the lyrics, “I don’t want to say ching chang, I want to say ching chong.” “Ching chang” is the kindly phrase that the tswana men use to describe the chinese language, much like the feeble attempts at the click that we use when we are pretending to speak the san language.
Well, if I had a ten bucks for every time I heard someone say “ching chong” or “ching chang” due to my presence, whether or not it was directed at me, I’d retire a happy person now and go back to the states. Today was no different. Except this time, after lunch, to add insult to injury, someone I consider my friend from the clinic in New Xade approached me and asked in the most wiley, self-arrogant manner, “How tall is a China Man?”
Let me premise the rest of the story by telling you first and foremost: I’m having a bad bad day. Possibly the worst day since that weekend I spent locked in my house crying right before Halloween. I woke up angry. Received text messages and phone calls that made me angry. Forced myself to participate in the many fun fun fun icebreakers reminiscent of childhood summer camps (I’m actually quite proud of myself for just doing it). And skipped half of the morning to go “home” (i.e. the couch I’m crashing on, I'm at a workshop) to cry, sleep it off and figure out myself before I totally snap. Given my incredibly poor mood, the reasons for which I will not go on about here, I thought I was surprisingly calm when I answered his question, “How tall is a chinaman?”
“Have you ever seen a chinaman?” I asked
“Yes” he said
“Then you tell me… Why are you asking?”
“Just answer the question, how tall is a china man?”
My eyes narrowed, “How tall is a Botswana man?”
He laughed as if this was funny. “Yes, He is.” He said.
“Yes he is what?” I asked. Goddamn it, I knew his meaning but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of being understood.
“He is” he said laughing. What really gets me upset is that this man is probably the shortest grown-man in Botswana