From BBC Learning English
It's October, and that means time has come to say thank you for a fantastic blog to Shirley and to welcome Jin Lu who will be with us here for a whole month. Over to you Jin Lu!
BBC Learning English team
posted on Friday, 02 October 2009 | comment on this post
Moment of Awakening
5:30 a.m. -- perhaps the most tranquil moment of a day in this south-eastern town in China. The dim, silvery sky was lying closely against the landscape yet in sleep. Far on the horizon vaguely appeared some colors of lightness. The street lamps were still on, and lonely-looking. I was sitting by the window on an early train that would depart from this small station in a few minutes. It was soundless around, but one with careful ears could hear the liveliness of a summer morning. Then suddenly the train started moving, and in that one second as I was leaving this unknown place, lines of street lamps went off. Brightness in the sky rapidly spread over a night’s dreams and awaked a world that had been so different in a blink of an eye. I had never seen such a moving picture before, and felt like I, too, was weaved into a corner of it.
This is one of the several moments I have always kept in my mind. By then I was 18 and had just graduated from high school in my hometown, Nanjing (or Nanking in the western way of spelling), China. I was on a graduation trip to the west end of the country from the very east where I come from. In the long break from school and before college, life felt like an afternoon languor. And more like a mystery which I could already taste some excitement of expectations, yet still had drops of fear and ambiguousness.
Now at 21, when I look back, I am always so grateful that I could have captured such a serene moment of awakening on a two-week journey right after my entering adulthood. Since then I have always been on various journeys to different places, long or short, alone or accompanied. Each time this moment is there, soothing me and securing me how lovely and peaceful this world could be even when I am far away from home.
So, dear friends, Hallo from Heidelberg, Germany! Another time away from home, now I am a third-year Chinese exchange student at Heidelberg University from Tsinghua University in Beijing. I shared that memorable moment with you the very first time I blog here in the hope that you could enjoy the same wonder of exploring a new world, maybe done many times before in your lives, but now with me.
posted on Friday, 02 October 2009 | comment on this post
Country, Family or Food?
What first comes to your mind when you see the word “home”?
The name of your country? The lovely house you live in with your family? Or simply the warm soup your mom cooks for you?
For me, the answer varies at times, but at least yesterday, it was the moon!
You may have known that in China, people use two types of calendar – the western/official one and the lunar one in the same time. The latter originated from thousands of years ago when almost everything revolved around nature and agriculture, naturally including marking the time. So in the lunar calendar, the period of the moon changing from eye-brow-thin to half-way-full on to pancake-round and then reversing the process is defined as a month. Is there anything similar in your culture? Or do you celebrate a special day in the middle of autumn when the moon appears the fullest?
That day is called Mid-Autumn Festival in China, the 15th of the eighth month in the lunar calendar. It is a time for family to get together, have moon cakes (a special cake shaped like a full moon with different stuffing, usually sweet) and admire the bright full moon in the night sky.
The Day is full of poetry if I think of it. Poetry written in countless works by ancient Chinese scholars with amazing beauty and subtlety; Poetry not written in the cozy air when mothers are holding little babies under the moon, or lovers leaning on each other quietly in the moonlight.
“When we are looking up at the moon, there is someone looking back at us from the cold palace up there in the distant world. Her name is Chang’e.” said my grandmother many years ago when I was having my favorite flavor of moon cake with red-bean stuffing. Like the story of Santa Claus in western culture, this Chinese young girl is a well-known legend in oriental culture.
“She lives there with her little bunny for many centuries now. She was once a young girl like you, living happily on the earth, but because she wanted long life, she stole a magical medicine, took it and flew up to the Cold Palace on the moon, where an eternal life was granted—yet with solitude. ”
I would always give a long stare at the surface of the moon, seriously trying to find the palace and maybe the girl stroking the little bunny in her arms. I believed I had seen it a couple of times, the shady and bumpy spots in the middle of the moon. I believed in this story for many years till I was older. Now I would think of my grandmother more who passed away a few years ago, rather than the girl living on the moon.
Because of all these connections to the moon running along our cultural line, you will now surely understand why yesterday was so special for me—it was this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival— yet a one without being with my family in China as I am now studying in Heidelberg, Germany.
My Chinese friends here and I still decided to have some small celebrations. We went to a Chinese restaurant in the city center and had the most touching meal I had ever had in the past one month since I was in Germany. The food was of Shanghai style, which is extremely close to that of my hometown, and the Chinese chefs and waiters there felt like family. After the dinner, we walked along River Neckar, a branch of River Rhein, which runs across Heidelberg.
Then there was the amazing brilliance of the moon!
We almost shed tears seeing the perfectly shaped full moon in the sky above the foreign soil. It’s the same moon when hours earlier our families and friends in China had seen. It’s the same feeling of home that would hardly change.
posted on Sunday, 04 October 2009 | comment on this post
A means to an end
“Travel is a means to an end—home.” I saw this nice sentence on the London Bus Card (with a vivid name: Oyster) when I was last in London. So Nuala, have a WONDERFUL holiday in Baltimore…and don’t forget to come back home! We will all be here waiting for your exciting stories and pictures from the US！
Your travel plan has obviously stirred my memory again. Recently I have made quite a few small journeys in southern Germany.
Two weeks ago, as my one-month preparatory German language course came to an end, I had a friend of mine visit me in Heidelberg from Rotterdam, and we went together with an amazingly nice German couple I’d known to the Schwarzwald (the Black Forest). We were driving all the way through the forests in the mountains, which brought us a beautiful view of the southern German landscape.
I wished my eyes were automatic camera lens so that it could be fast and convenient enough to take pictures. I especially liked the valleys between the mountains, where you could see vast grassland for grazing, and flocks of sheep or cows (actually I’m not sure what those animals were)…Oh, do take a walk in their vineyards and taste their wines if you go there someday! Or stand there for a while on the top of a mountain where you can see France on the horizon like what we did!
In the evening, after a nice picnic and some random touring in the lovely villages along the valley, we said good-bye to the couple (who must go back to Heidelberg for work on Monday) in a small town called Freiburg (Maybe you have heard of it because of an old and well-known university there). We had a lovely night staying in a clean youth hostel celebrating my friend’s 20th birthday!After a two-hour sightseeing in the small town, we took a train at noon on to the Bodensee (Lake Constance in English) on the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. My words simply dare not describe its charm, especially in the evening when we arrived. Let the pictures give you some idea of what I meant.
Considering our limited budget, we decided to head back to Heidelberg around midnight. Mid-night train in a foreign country, with a language you barely understand and an exotic view (and in dark) out of the window-- one should also have such an experience once or twice in his/her life. There was a combination of feelings…excited yet very exhausted…or should I put it as excitedly exhausted? In a word, just like alcohol.
The next couple of days of my friend’s stay in Germany, we basically traveled near Heidelberg, which by the way was very nice too. Together we explored the old town of Heidelberg, where I live, and even went boating on the river Neckar. Thanks to Germany’s student-friendly transportation system, we were able to travel to many neighboring towns cheaply.
Some other recommendations (I’ve been to the first two and liked them, and wanted to go to the third): the Schlossgarten (castle garden) in Schwetzingen, a historical town called Wuerzburg, and Nuernburg if possible.
I still feel Heidelberg one of the most beautiful ones after having been to many towns and villages in southern Germany. There are many different worlds blended in one here. It has much diversity to offer rather than only the natural scenery which sometimes looks similar to other towns. But I guess that’s because l live here as someone who buys milk and sausage from the local supermarket and empties the dustbin in our public kitchen when it’s my duty—and when the semester starts soon, I will be someone who hurries to catch a punctual bus and complains (perhaps in German) about the bus driver who never stops to wait for one more minute, or someone who goes home with bunches of books and papers in the evening chillness, passing the Asian tourists everywhere.
I simply love the feeling of living here, not as a visitor. And that’s making Heidelberg more beautiful. It’s already memory, not a picture.
posted on Thursday, 08 October 2009 | comment on this post
Thank you for your comments and feedback!
First to dear Nuala:
Thank you so much for the tips! They warn me again of the problems in my writing. There may be an ill-developed custom in Chinese education system, as you understood, but not in my case--my language teachers always told me to write simpler! I will explain later how I feel when I write. But for now I'd better clear those mistakes!
People use two types of calendar in the same time --> at the same time
Mid-Autumn Festival (is) in China the 15th day of the eighth month --> on the 15th day of the eighth month
The latter originated from thousands of years ago --> originated thousands of years ago
You may have known that in China people use two types of calendar --> you may know that...
I believe I had seen it a couple of times --> I believe I have seen it...
Now I would think of my grandmother more --> Now I think of my grandmother...
She lives there with her bunny for many centuries now --> She has lived there...
To dear readers:
Rocio from Mexico: Hallo Rocio! Es geht mir sehr gut! Do you also speak German? My German is actually not very good, especially when it comes to listening and speaking. But I hope one year’s life in a real language environment will be of much help. I will surely write more about my life here and show you more pictures. I study English language and literature in my home university, but here, German will be my priority for this semester.
Israel from Spain: Thank you for reading my blog. I’m very interested in your name. Isn’t that a name of a country too?
Mizan from Dubai: Hello Mizan! Glad that we share similar experiences in our lives. I like your idea that the Air links us in an invisible way….very true indeed. Come back often so we can exchange our ideas and stories with words – rather in a visible way!
Soroush from Toronto: Hi Soroush! I had a brilliant foreign teacher in my home university who comes from Toronto. I would love to visit your city someday since she has told us so much about it… just hope it will not be too cold:)
James from Taiwan: Dear Mr. Wu, from your spelling I suppose your Chinese name Zhih Cheng means aspiration and honesty ? I’m thinking to write about Chinese names later since they seem very confusing and mysterious to foreign eyes. I will stay in Heidelberg for one year. If the readers are not bored, I will be very happy to introduce the places (Nanjing, Beijing, and Heidelberg) ALL!
Little cow from Rotterdam: Hi my dear friend…thank you for your support!
Roberta and Filippo from Italy: Hello! I study English language and literature in my home university, but here at Heidelberg University, I also learn German as a foreign language. You are right: Heidelberg Uni. is one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1386. If you are interested, check out their website: www.uni-heidelberg.de. But be careful if you Google it, because there is another Heidelberg University in Ohio, USA!
Thao from Vietnam: Hello Thao! Wow you are only 13 and your English is already good! I started to learn ABC when I was about 12. You are so lucky! Keep up your good work and welcome back!
Beatriz from Uruguay: Thank you Beatriz! There is still a long way for me to go. Please also read the teacher's blog because Nuala has given me many useful language tips and important corrections. I think they are valuable to all too :-)
Vladimir from Ukraine: Hello Vladimir! Well I can't really say I SPEAK German...I read some German but speaking is still not easy for me. I speak Chinese and English, and am still learning German. I can't imagine either the feeling of being a multilingual person. But I hope after one year of studying here, I will have some idea :)
Liu Yang and Lucy from China: Hi! So happy to see you here too. I hope you have enjoyed the National Holiday...it's unusually long this year, isn't it? I really wanted to celebrate the National Day in Beijing with my friends there! I could've been one of the college students in the parade in Tian'an Men Square, if I were not in Germany. I watched the TV broadcast on line and was as proud as you were. It might be more exciting for me, though, because two of my roommates at Tsinghua were actually in the parade and the singing group. I promised them I would try to spot their faces on TV but...well let's just pretend I succeeded :) I think Chinese people are particularly sensitive about our cultural tradition along with the sense of identity that grows out of it. It might be difficult for people from other cultures to relate to, but it is significant that we have a platform here to try to understand each other. Thank you again for visiting me! Best wishes!
Pilar from Spain: Hello and thank you for your suggestion. Though a mysterious novel might scare myself first before it gives goose bumps to its potential readers: p
Ravindra from Colombo: Hello Ravindra! I'm sorry for a spelling mistake I made in my entry...it's “Ciao” I meant, not "Chao" (I have corrected it now)...So Chao is not my name--it's Jin Lu. I have studied in Beijing for two years.There are many good memories and also very important ones. Please read on, I hope my posts will to some extent attract you to actually visit there one day:-)
Alexandra from Brazil: Hi Alexandra. I couldn't agree more that history makes a city more charming...and sexy. Sometimes you can't learn history simply from books. It needs our senses-- to see, smell, listen, touch and even taste! I am very lucky to have grown up in a historical city and go to college in another one. Possibly I will write more about them later.
Shirley from Indonesia: I really enjoy your posts Shirley! And I agree with you 200% that blogging here is a GREAT experience! Best wishes to you!
Ramilton from Brazil: Hello Ramilton! Glad that you liked the moon story. It's true that nowadays you can meet Chinese people, both tourists and immigrants, almost everywhere in the world, including here in Heidelberg. I'm always interested in their lives abroad, how they live and think, how they raise their children, or what will be changed/unchanged mentally and physically after they move to a foreign environment. That' why I am so into a Chinese American writer Amy Tan's books, which demonstrate a complicate world of overseas Chinese community. One thing I found interesting is the role of language ability. Immigrants who learn to speak the local language or do not might sometimes be treated differently. I'm still learning German, and trying to learn it well. Speaking a local language will more directly help me understand this country.
Hyoshil from UK: Ah Njong! Nice to see you here Hyoshil! I think Korea is the next country I want to go if possible! I've had many connections with your country. To start with, it's my family name. It writes in Chinese character same as your KIM (it reads JIN in Chinese), so many people thought I was from Korea. I've also known a Korean family living in the US quite well--I stayed in their house for one month at 16. The Korean mom named me Kim Soh Hwuah (which means little flower I guess?) according to her daughter's name. I still use this name sometimes when writing letters to them :) A few years later, I hosted a Korean American girl in my house in Nanjing for three months. We had so much fun teaching Chinese and Korean to each other. Well, shopping and eating was naturally part of it -- I've got to know and taste a lot of Korean food because of her influence, and vice versa. Oh of course we watched many Korean dramas together too. I wish I could continue learning Korean, which I dropped earlier because of a busy study schedule in college. I hope you enjoy your life in UK even far away from Korea. The distance determines nothing. Home is always nearby when you are truly thinking of it. Best wishes!
Olya from Ukraine: Hello Olya! It intrigues me that people in your country sometimes check with the calendar to do certain chores. There's a long history of superstition in Chinese culture which involves doing similar things, such as to check when is a good and lucky time to wed, to travel or to clean one's house. Something like Feng-shui. Maybe the mysterious words from fortune cookies stem from this tradition too...
Concetta from Italy: Thank you for your encouragement. I used to dream of writing for children...Now I guess I should give it a try:)
MOON from Wollongong: Hello :) I would've been very happy to join you eating the dumplings! I miss them a lot...Here my Chinese roommate and I create dishes every day. Mixture of eastern and western styles is common in our menu! Best wishes and always have a good appetite!
Mizan from Dubai again: A lot of myths flow out of my memory now...I don't remember every one of them precisely but will not forget how they nurtured me and tempted me to learn reading before going to school. I do like nature very much, partly because I lived in a small town near the countryside until I was 8. I find it reasonable that people who are affectionate towards nature are more likely to enjoy their lives...you think?
Toni from Spain: Warm greetings to you Toni! I think of my beloved grandmother very often. She was the most important person in my life. I regret so much that I did not visit her more in the last couple of years of her life... now that she's gone forever, there's nothing I could do to compensate other than to live my life to the fullest so that she would not be disappointed. So have a great life Toni, your father would be proud!
posted on Friday, 09 October 2009 | comment on this post
A world of words
It is rather cold today in Heidelberg. A little shower in the morning and heavy wind throughout the day. The season has come to a very subtle phase where you can hardly judge if it is still autumn, or winter has arrived unnoticed.
The new semester of Heidelberg University started on Monday this week, and my schedule has already been filled with courses both in English and German. I have long been curious about how and what students are taught in a foreign university.Luckily, they seem not completely unfamiliar.
In a linguistic course called Approaches to World Englishes, we will look at Englishes spoken in different parts of the world — their accents, history,cultural backgrounds and future. It interests me that Hong Kong English will be studied too. I have several intimate friends from Hong Kong, who speak English with a very distinctive accent and intonation.Now for the very first time, I have been offerred a perfect chance to know not only how they speak, but why like this.
The “cool” (the more I study English, the less I use this word—there are so many accurate words to describe HOW “cool” it is; it will be a big waste if all the different good feelings are devoured by a vague “cool”) thing about studying language academically is that one will be able to turn his/her rough impressions — which in my mind resembles a buoyant leaf on whirling water — to something solid and secure— Knowledge.
I have also discovered that there may be a mysterious power which weaves fragments of my life into a consistent series. Months ago as I was visiting Bath, UK, I spent an entire afternoon in the Jane Austen Center (I hope there are many Austen fans among the readers here) smelling the air in the house and playing mini dramas in my head about Jane’s life. For a little souvenir to bring back, I randomly picked an exquisite bookmark which read “I Love Mansfield Park”.
Now months later in Heidelberg, sitting in the course of “Literature and Film, Mansfield Park”, with thirty young women glittering with enthusiasm about a same lasting name, I suspected delightedly that that bookmark had meant to lead me there.
I shall now trace back to a bit earlier, how I, born and brought up in a distant oriental country, have turned out a faithful soul who wishes to share a corner of the bewildering literary world. The answer looks superstitious but worth believing in—my birthday!
On the same date, two influential people, if not utterly historic, were born. One is Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Hollywood star and present Governor of California USA, whom there is no possibility I could ever become. The other— when I first learned it, an inner voice of mine shouted out of surprise -- is Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Height, one of the most prominent British writers of all time.
I do not know if that means anything, but rather I like to take it as a hint. That mysterious power arranged me to be born on this special date, and has made me much closer in many ways to this special woman. As a kid of 8, I was shown by chance a black-and-white film of Jane Eyre, a work by Emily’s sister Charlotte Bronte. I was magnetized even without complete comprehension. The journey of loving literature (in both languages I speak) then started and has led itself onwards.
So dear Rocio, I hope you now understand why I chose to study language and literature. It’s a natural choice. I know in many cultures, including Chinese culture, people believe in Fate. I do not say this is fate, because it sounds ostentatious. Nevertheless, there might still be one day at my old age when I look back and say “Well, it’s just meant to happen.”
posted on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 | comment on this post
Jin Lu? Jin Lu!
Even though you may have very little knowledge of Chinese language, you have CORRECTLY and BEAUTIFULLY pronounced these two complicated Chinese characters for weeks!
Exactly, that’s my name—Jin Lu.
It seems a bit stupid when someone hesitates to give an answer when asked what his/her name is—unfortunately, that was my story for quite a long time.
I have made many attempts to figure out what my name should be since I was very young. My father named me “Jing” meaning crystal at my birth. He explained that the choice was inspired by my family name, Jin .
In my hometown dialect, there is nearly no distinction between the two sounds. So, there was my name: Jing Jing.
How does this sound in your language? The only idea I had about this name was positive enough. For young girls, this was both lovely and lively—short syllables, rising tones, like a silver spoon pattering on a glass or girls’ giggling on the way home.
Yet in a negative sense which I made quite a fuss about, it sacrificed my chance of getting a baby-name like all the other kids have. Let’s say, Yao, the NBA basketball player. In fact (which most people aren’t aware of) Ming is his first name, which means brightness. It’s now reasonable to assume that his parents might have called him “Ming Ming” when he was a little boy – the kind of cute baby-name I wanted but could never get because apparently, Jing Jing, as an official name, also possessed all the essential features of a baby name.
As the result of this convenient two-in-one solution, there came my sadness and jealousy. I decided at a very young age that I was indeed unlucky, because something that was so important and indispensible in my life had been taken away so easily—easier than a slip of the tongue.
But just when I was about to blame my parents about their “laziness”, chances came that I might have a new name! Lu— the simplest pronunciation with the complicated 17 strokes in the character symbolizing delicate jade—was the gift I got the first day of school. How special and rare it was to have a new name—one that looked so smart and that must make those who write it so smart too!
I practiced drawing every stroke of it for maybe a million times on the little blackboard I used to have at home. I was even too excited to ask why and how my dad decided to make me a “Lu”. They were dull reasons which I learned later, something like naming me after a famous anchor woman he liked, someone that read and spoke well. But nonetheless, I now owned a new identity. I could call my little friends and announce some “shocking news”. I could show my teacher how I was able to write such a complicated character even when I had learned simple strokes for only one day.
And secretly, I had one more wish: a baby name I had never had. Jin Lu sounded too wrong to be a baby name. Dad must have no excuse this time.
Yet sadly, I was not a baby anymore.
I finally get by with my family, friends and now boyfriend calling me Jin Lu (my full name) almost all the time (except once in a while they create ridiculous words to address me for fun). I’ve never bothered to take back my “being unlucky” definition of my childhood, but nor have I liked the idea ever since.
I am lucky to have had two names after all. Both are pretty and full of meaning and good wishes. They are not exotic as the Western name I picked for myself when I started learning English (Sally, by the way, a common and a little old fashioned name I’m afraid). They are not long and pretentious as many names you might have come across in those corny fictions that never last longer than a month. They don’t necessarily link me with the lovely memories of friendship as much as a Korean one given by my Korean friends.
But they have been, in a quiet way, very important and indispensible. The time and situations they appeared never allow a baby name. Or maybe I just never needed one. My dad was right about one thing, I am now more and more like the lady he named me after, independent and literate.
Life always plays such naughty jokes with you, doesn’t it?
posted on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 | comment on this post
Comments Reply II
Dear Lucy, that was really a sweet burden :) But here I have noticed many young mothers carry their babies with them everywhere, on the bus, to the store and even hiking! When your baby is a bit older, maybe it’s a good idea to take him/her out sometimes: )
Dear Mizan, glad you like my German pictures :) keep reading the blog and more pictures from China will come up! Oh I would love to tour around Asia, including the south west part of it. (Pity is that as Asian I have never been to any other Asian country before…)Bangladesh is definitely an ideal destination! And as for your idea of “if someone's mind and intuition shape something, he/she should head towards to execute”, I find it very correct. I also realize that encouragement along the way is of great importance—thinking if my parents had not been supportive by buying books for me and encouraging me to write, it would have been a totally different story. By the way, I can tell you read a lot too!
Dear Ramilton, one of the German girls living in my dormitory has just returned from Africa! She said it was wonderful and has brought back many interesting and exotic souvenirs. Hope you will have a wonderful journey too!
Dear Ravindra, I’m ashamed now that I’m replying you (and others) so late and my posts are not that active…I have a lot that I want to write, but always get disturbed by my school assignments…anyway I will do my best and big thanks to your support!
Dear Rocio, I hope you have found my answer to your choosing-literature question satisfying:) I admire you so much for your courage and persistence on foreign language learning. After mastering German, my next ambition is Cantonese (well that’ s still Chinese, but the speaking part is entirely different from Chinese mandarin which I speak) Korean and French…and maybe that will be another ten years…Yet it is never too late to learn! Keep up your good work Rocio!
Dear Israel, as I was learning the Bible as a literary text (I’m not Christian) the other day, I realized Israel was originally a man’s name, then a people’s, then the country’s. Is that right? There is indeed story behind everyone’s names！
Dear Rabail, thank you for enjoying the pictures! The scenery was just so wonderful that every normal click would produce a post-card picture! Big thanks for commenting on my entry too, that gives me huge motivation to write! Speaking of my course of World Englishes, it is getting more and more interesting. We started from American accents last time, which made me realize even within a speaker (like J. F. Kennedy), the rendering of a certain phoneme (such as “a” and “r”) could be inconsistent. I will be doing a presentation on colonial Englishes soon, mainly about Cameron and Hong Kong. I agree with you that people’s English accent is influenced by their native language. Have you noticed that their penmanship is so too? i.e. The way Chinese people write Chinese characters will very likely form the way they write English letters, even the two writing systems are very different.
Dear Soroush, an amazing thing: a couple of weeks ago when I was on the castle of Heidelberg, I saw SNOW! It was barely visible but I saw it! The weather went normal again till now. I guess the winter of Heidelberg will be just as interesting as in Toronto. I’m really looking forward to Christmas now And Bingo! You are absolutely right about Chinese names: 1) The baby name is used only within the family, when parents call the child. This may continue to the child’s adulthood. And official name is what’s written on your passport, school transcript, etc. and called by people outside the family. 2) The last name (or the family name) comes first, which makes the first name (or the given name) come second. The common Chinese names you may have heard of like Wang, Chan, and Liu are actually family names. Now, do you know how to address, for example, me (Jin Lu)-- Miss Jin or Miss Lu? (I’m sure you do!)
Thank you Ana Paula, I’m up to my neck in work too, school work though. But writing this blog is the last thing in the world I would ever give up! Thanks for reading it and being so encouraging
Dear Diema, yes it’s a happiest thing to study what one really wants. Some of my friends don’t get to do that, which is very unfortunate. But it’s also possible that I will end up doing something entirely different from what I study in college, which is fun too. Who knows?:)
Dear Marianna, your comment is so informative and insightful. Sorry, firstly, for the confusing sentence: I meant that German university is not entirely different from my university in China. Secondly, absolute agreement with you on treasuring our meaningful and beautiful languages. Even I study and use English intensively I still find myself most attracted to Chinese (and ancient Chinese). I know little about the writer you mentioned, but I’m sure he was profound in mind and determined in life. Glad you enjoy the Bronte sisters’ works as well. Hope reading helps you get better
Thank you Asma for being so kind and encouraging! I am actually very optimistic and happy indeed It just bothers me sometimes that I will never get to read up ALL the good books in the world! …well just joking: ) Anyway reading is so much fun and hope you enjoy it too.
Dear HYOSHIL, I have just made up my mind to pick up my Korean and hope I will be able to speak it one day! Maybe I will go live in Korea for a year or two and get to know an authentic Korea. I did see a fortune-teller one time in an old temple in a mountain, but it turned out to be funny…he said that math was my strongest subject in school and I would have many troubles with English learning, which was apparently the other way round…I just had a big laugh (well not in front of him though). Speaking of fortune-teller, it is interesting that Chinese restaurants in foreign countries always give people fortune cookies, but in Chine NEVER. I hadn’t seen anything like that until I was in USA one time…
Dear Sahimeh, welcome! And you are already helping me and yourself in learning English by writing a comment. Keep reading, I hope you will find our communication helpful :) Best wishes!
Dear Van, thank you for the encouragement! I once intended to read the Chinese translation of the Jane Austen Club but never finished it. I think of two reasons:1) everyone has their Jane Austen Club story so I was always interrupted by my own story and could not continue within the book 2) the Chinese translation was not good enough. Both reasons make me feel more determined to learn English well, because there seems to be something always untranslatable from one to another, language or life story.
Thank you Mateo! I am actually writing a long story for my writing course at Heidelberg University and enjoy it very much. But I’ve never thought about making writing a formal career. Not only because I’m far from good, but also that it would be so stressful considering the commercial side…Anyway I will never stop writing, that’s for sure : )
Well, Silvia, the reason is dull. There was a girl who had the same first and last names as mine in my class, (this situation is common in China) so it caused huge inconvenience for everyone. Then my dad decided to give me a new name. He happened to like the anchorwoman I mentioned, who had the name of “Lu”(of course with a different family name). And there was my new name:)
Dear Vladimir, I wish I could be like Jack London, but mentally and physically I CAN’T. I am definitely the latter type: I write when I feel like it. I do have an idea in mind when I start an piece of writing, but usually the idea gets lost and distracted by something else that comes along the way, and the piece ends up being something different or even opposite! I wanted to write about the house I’m living when I started the “A world of words” entry, but see, it apparently went far away… But life is so much more interesting with a wandering mind, ha: ) There is little chance I will be a professional writer, but if I ever publish anything, then the name of the author will be JIN LU. Always, I promise you.
posted on Sunday, 25 October 2009 | comment on this post
Hello Nuala! Welcome back! Now that you are a master of Chinese, why not try some German too! Can you guess what this German title means?
Why not? You just said it! :) So before I update you on my recent life, why not revise my sentences first?
1. You can hardly judge if it's still autumn --> You can hardly tell if it’s still autumn.
2. I have several intimate friends --> I have several close friends
3, I have been offered a perfect chance --> I have been offered an ideal chance… (I think “ideal opportunity” is also right but not as good as “chance”, right?)
4. I… have turned out a faithful soul --> I have turned into a faithful soul.
5. Jin Lu sounded too wrong to be a baby name --> Jin Lu would sound awkward as a baby name.
6. It’s now reasonable to assume that his parents might have called him “Ming Ming” when he was a little boy – the kind of cute baby-name I wanted but could never get because apparently, Jing Jing, as an official name, also possessed all the essential features of a baby name.
--> His parents might have called him “Ming Ming” when he was little. I wanted a cute baby-name like that too, but could never get one. Because Jing Jing, as an official name, could also be used as a baby name.
7. But they have been, in a quiet way, very important and indispensible. The time and situations they appeared never allow a baby name.
--> But they are already part of me now. There was never a right time for a baby name, but maybe I just never needed one.
One more thing, Nuala, I clicked the link you put there and the “Nuala should work more and talk less” comment was so mean! What did your parents say when they saw it? Did they have a good laugh, and then start to cultivate your interest in debating? :) You know what was on my first kindergarten report: Our little girl Jing Jin is very clean.
Now, back from kindergarten to my college life.
This Monday I did something I had never done before: going to an audition. The drama group of English department at University of Heidelberg will be presenting a play by Agatha Christie next summer and they were recruiting the cast. It was just a small flyer precariously stapled on the bulletin board but it attracted me when I passed by. I hesitated for a while then thought WARUM NICHT? Why not? Maybe they wanted a mysterious girl from the east; maybe they wanted someone very slim and small and with straight black hair. Maybe they would want me.
It was a decision I took a long five seconds to make. It should’ve taken no time at all.
I have never done any drama before. I was never a talented actress in school. The furthest I went was a Best Voice Actress award in high school when I hid in the backstage and voice-acted for the Juliet (in Romeo and Juliet). I wrote a few screen scripts too, but have never really been the one that is in my story. Nonetheless I always wish I could do drama: what could be more magical than giving life to the silent words?
There were about 12 people that night in the audition room. Most of them were experienced actors and actresses. Since no one would like to go first for the audition, I filled my name on the top of the list. I had hope but no expectations. It was more for fun and simply a wish than for competition.
Once I dreaded speaking English in front of many people because I would look even smaller, but one day I saw the English debating club in my home university debating against Sydney University, and the debaters looked just fabulous. I suddenly decided. Why not give it a try?
Once I would faint standing in a swimming pool because I was nearly drowned when younger, but one day I realized what a great swimming pool we had only 3 minutes away from my dormitory and it was cool in summer and warm in winter. I suddenly decided. Why not give it a try?
Once I disliked Korean food because Kimchi was too spicy and I could not handle the heavy silver chopsticks, but one day I met my Korean friends, and they looked happy like a child when they ate their food. I suddenly decided. Why not give it a try?
Once I was so annoyed by this person in my college, because he talked too much and in bad mandarin, but one day he asked if I could accompany him to tour around Beijing because he was not from the mainland and felt lonely. I was not from Beijing and I was alone too. Suddenly I decided. Why not give us a chance?
Now, my favorite activity, sport, food and man : ) would all have been bubbles in dreams if I hadn’t given it a try – if not for a simple phrase: Why not? There are many miraculous things we don’t know yet in our lives. I give them some light, and wait for their blooming
posted on Sunday, 25 October 2009 | comment on this post
The tale of a city
Once upon a time, a very unlucky Chinese emperor who had ruled the country for too long finally bored his people (especially the rebellious and ill-treated farmers who then turned their ploughs to weapons) and was driven away. Then, as usual, a new dynasty began.
The head of the rebels declared himself as the new emperor, created a name for the new dynasty, and gained new wealth and men (and women)… When everything else was ready, he suddenly halted at one fatal issue: where should the new capital be?
So, here comes the tale of a city— Nanjing.
It turned out that the new emperor was unlucky too. Shortly after he and his new court had applauded for the smart idea of Nanjing as the new capital, his new dynasty fell apart. Some hundreds of years later, the same story happened again. Another unlucky emperor, nearly defeated by the rebels, decided to move the capital to the southeast—again, to Nanjing. Only a few months later, he was killed with his dying dynasty even before the poor fellow could ever sleep one happy night and breathed any peaceful air.
Perhaps Chinese history is too long and those unwise choices were easily forgotten, another seven emperors (and the first president in the modern time, too) either made Nanjing their capital, or moved the old capital to this city. Unfortunately, Nanjing all failed them.
The only reason why a girl refuses so many suitors again and again must be that she is way too wise and too beautiful. She is too good to be a housewife.
And that’s my prejudiced conclusion of the tale of my dear hometown.
An ancient poet would easily fall in love with (or in) Nanjing.
If he lived in the east of the city, he would walk in the Purple Mountain, treading on the fallen sycamore leaves and meditating for a few lines.
If he lived a bit more west, he would walk on the old walls around the Xuanwu Lake, touching the coarse bricks inscribed with names centuries old and meditating for a few lines.
If he then walked to the south, he would meet a singing girl with her parasol on a stone bridge above the rippling Qinhuai River, and the white water birds flying around made him meditate for some more lines.
He would just walk and walk and write poems after poems. One day he would walk to the very northern corner, and write more poems for what he saw: the roaring Yangtze River, which ran all the way from the Tibetan mountains to the fertile plains of East China, galloping with her eternal vitality into the sea.
He would then go there and write poems there in every season.
Springs in Nanjing made him full of good dreams, the long willow leaves stroking the pond, the peach blossoms wildly clustering in his garden.
Summers’ heat made him sleepy, yet pleasant with beautiful vegetables and fruits served to his table.
Autumns he liked the best, to the Qixia Mountain to pick some maple leaves, and with them he could decorate his bamboo fans in his pavilion.
When winter came and rivers froze, he painted, with his finest ink and brushes, the plum blossoms budding in the snow, and anonymously sent it to the singing girl.
There, in Nanjing, an ancient romantic poet would find everything he dreamed of as an ideal world: wealth of nature and culture, affluence of rains and grains, richness of beauty and romance.
Those unlucky emperors loved Nanjing for the same reasons, so did their subjects and soldiers. But they all forgot that a capital city in a great land as China meant much more—political struggle, military discipline and historical gravity, which Nanjing could never bear on her beautiful and delicate shoulders.
When their court soon became greedy for food and women, and soldiers all turned romantic, you know, it’s time for a new dynasty.
posted on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 | comment on this post
Sentence correction and last reply to comments
1. declared himself as the new emperor --> set himself up as the new emperor
2. He suddenly halted at one fatal issue --> He suddenly found a crucial question: where should the capital be?
3. Nanjing all failed them. --> Nanjing failed them all.
4. He would just write poems after poems.--> He would just write poem after poem.
5. This Monday I did something I had never done before: going to an audition. --> This Monday I did something I had never done before: went to an audition.
6. …they looked happy like a child when they ate their food. --> they looked happy as a child when they ate their food.
7. There were recruiting for the cast. --> They would audition for a cast.
8. He asked if I could accompany him to tour around Beijing. --> He asked if I could see around Beijing with him. (I am not sure if this is a better way, Nuala.)
9. It was a decision I took a long five seconds to make. (I will keep the sentence like this, because I meant even five seconds were long.)
10. I was nearly drowned when younger. --> I nearly drowned when younger. (No one tried to kill me : ))
11. The drama group of English Department of University of Heidelberg --> the Drama Group of the English Department of the University of Heidelberg
12. … I hid in the backstage and voiced-acted for the Juliet (in Romeo and Juliet). --> I hid backstage and voiced-acted for a Juliet (in Romeo and Juliet).
Dear Olya, I’ve just heard from my friends in Beijing that it is heavily snowing there NOW! I really wish to see it with them! Actually nowadays the Qinhuai River area is a famous sightseeing spot where nostalgic tourists come for a flavor of old China. Not many people live in the water-side houses now as it used to be. They’ve moved to the modern buildings as anywhere in the world. Anyways, it’s still nice to preserve those houses and keep us remember where our cultural roots lie. And yes, I’m looking forward to every single day, every day is indeed full of wonder! Best wishes to you!
Dear Lucy, it seems that you are very familiar with Nanjing – I guess you went to college there? The funny thing is that I dreamed to “flee” the city when I decided where to go for college, but now after I’ve been to many places in the world, I’ve found Nanjing still remains dear to me – and even dearer. I have no wish to be a famous poet, except one that writes poetry for her lover and writes stories for her children. This is all I want, and this is already beautiful enough for a short life : )
Thank you Marina! Welcome to China and see it yourself!
Thank you Marianna for sharing your film story with me! Your support to this blog has already been part of my most wonderful experience! Best wishes to you too!
Dear Mizan, I made the painting for a literary course I had last year at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I was writing a term paper on Virginia Woolf’s novel Light House and suddenly came up with an idea of finishing the paper with a painting –a Chinese style of light house. Everyone has their different light house in mind. So why not showing the one in MY heart? If you ever get to read that brilliant book, maybe try to picture YOUR light house as well: )
posted on Saturday, 31 October 2009 | comment on this post