…remembering that human beings cannot produce 20,000 unique sounds, even if you were to include belching and hawking great globs of phlegm (which I think counts in Chinese), the linguistic powers that be–whoever they are–threw in tones, possibly to ensure that no foreigner over the ages of thirty would have any chance whatsoever of understanding that Chinese language.

Fortunately, due to a terrible misunderstanding, I soon found myself working as a consultant to the World Bank. I am not exactly sure what it was that led the World Bank to believe I had any expertise in infrastructure finance. I had never even balanced a checkbook. I hadn’t even tried. There is not much reason to balance a checkbook when your checking account rarely tops the three-figure mark. And so, to the Third World countries who had the misfortune of working with me on their infrastructure projects, I wish to apologize.

I made arrangements with Bitaki, a teammate on the soccer team I played with, to go fishing with his brothers, who typically worked the waters off Maiana, the nearest island south of Tarawa. When I mentioned to Sylvia that I was going, she said: “No, you’re not.