Monday, March 23, 2009


My Chinese cell phone number has eleven digits. It took me a long time to memorize it. It was actually convenient at times that I didn't know my phone number for those first few weeks, when random people on the bus in my small town in China would ask me to tutor them in English, or if some grandmother wanted to set me up with her grandson. I could honestly say I didn't know my number!

But eventually I did have to learn it. There were students and parents of students and potential students and friends and co-workers and neighbors who needed to know my number. And so after telling countless people my phone number over the following months and years, by the time I left China last May, I could have quoted it in my sleep!

When I returned to China last month for a 3-week visit, I took my old Chinese cell phone and charger with me. My brother Michael put some money in my account for me before I arrived so that I could use my phone when I got there.

But it had been nine months since I had thought about my Chinese phone number. So when an American in Hong Kong asked me for my number, I had to think about it for a minute. And nothing was coming to mind. Then suddenly it came to me, all at once, and in Chinese! "Yao - San - San, Ba - Si - Er - Wu..." I actually had to say it out loud in Chinese and write it down before I could tell my friend the number in English! :)