The torture of last weekend's abominably pointless language testing marathon was slightly alleviated by a couple of moments of thigh-slapping hilarity. Our chortles, though, were not as hearty as they might have been, more the product of embarrassed discomfiture than pure mirth.
I think I have probably spoken before (though I can't recall where) of how limited most Chinese people's knowledge of history seems to be - even their own, but even more so of 'Western' history. For example, they seem to know next-to-nothing about World War II in Europe. This lack of a basic historical framework nurtures a broader ignorance of cultural sensitivities...
One candidate had listened to a portion of the speech Barack Obama made on a visit to Berlin a few months before he was elected President in 2008. He made references to it being the 60th anniversary of the Berlin airlift, an event of which our candidate - and, I would guess, about 98% of the Chinese people - was entirely unaware. When I tried to help the chap by prompting with one or two questions about WHO it was that the Allies might have been helping the Germans against after the War, he eagerly guessed: "Those Jews?"
How we cringed!
Earlier in the day, another candidate had been treated to an Obama anecdote (gawd, it was all Obama that day: we poor examiners got thoroughly sick of it!) about how his mother had woken him up in the middle of the night to give him extra lessons when he was a young boy, and how, if he ever whinged about it, she would reprove him by saying, "You know, this is no picnic for me either, buster."
Or, as our candidate recounted it:
"This is not a picnic, you little bastard!"
I wonder if the saintly Mrs Obama ever did chastise her son in those terms. I bet she did, once in a while.