Today was the first time I heard ‘您贵姓?’ (very formal way of asking for someones name) used apart from at hotel reception desks. It always seems to be taught in textbooks, but I’m not sure it deserves to be, given how rarely I hear it. I think I hear ‘怎么称呼你?’ (how to address you?) more often – knowing someones surname is Zhang is only one part of the battle, do you call them old Zhang, young Zhang, Mr Zhang, Manager Zhang . . .
Introductions here often cover this, like the answer to 您贵姓? today – 我姓田, 叫我小田吧. Increasingly people are using English names – saves the hassle of figuring out who is 老 and who is 小，I guess.
You don’t see many US teenagers wandering around in a Chinese school uniform tracksuit, unless you live near me. I’ve seen them around quite a bit, standing head, shoulders and fair part of torso above their classmates and taking up my favourite seat in the local coffee place.
I’d always figured they would be here on some kind of exchange program. I ran into one of their (American) teachers in a restaurant today, and it turns out I’m only half right – they are here, but not on an exchange program. Apparently for the last ten years or so a group of American private high schools has been sending a few dozen of their students to Beijing for a full school year. They get a couple of hours of language training a day, take the courses they need to progress to the next year in the US, take classes with the Chinese students where possible and live with Chinese families.
It sounds like a good program – the guy I spoke to said out of one group of 50 that were here a few years ago, 8 were now back in Beijing studying. That’s an impressive percentage. Its also the only program I know of its kind – you might get some schools doing one or two week visits, but this is a full academic year.
It’d be interesting to know how many of the first students on this program are now working in China related-fields. It’s also quite sobering to think that if every American high school had a program like this, I’d have very little chance of getting the window seat.
Got stumped at work today by 转经, zhuanjing, which had been translated as turning scripture. Dictionary of first resort (金山词霸, because its on the computer and therefore fast) didn’t help, nor did internet searches turn up anything immediately helpful ( I just scan the snippets for context, can’t check every page). I then did something I’m doing much more often these days, and did an image search for the mystery phrase – it’s much easier guessing what something is by looking at pictures that are actually of it than by reading text about it.
Once I got the pictures, the turning bit made sense. A closer look at 经 reminded me of the ‘classic, scripture’ meaning of the character – ie, 经典, or 道德经. Turn scripture = spin a prayer wheel. Simple, no . . .
Took one of China’s shiny new Z trains to and from Shanghai over the weekend. 12 hour non-stop trip, which is an hour or two less than the regular expresses which stop at the major cities en route.
The service is a fairly good one – for a more expensive ticket (499Y soft sleeper, 283Y soft seat, no hard class) you save a bit of time and get a better nights sleep as you don’t get bounced off your bunk every time the train pulls into a station. You also get a free evening meal, air-line style, except it’s infinitely more palatable than anything you’d get on an internal Chinese flight (motto: is it cheese? Is it ham? No, it’s Cham!) and the attendants are friendly and helpful.
It’s not much fun though. Soft sleeper always seems a bit unfriendly – as if people don’t pay more to have to speak to others. In hard sleeper you’ll hardly get a chance to put on your slippers before someone offers you sunflower seeds, a game of cards and the chance to teach at their cousin’s new English school. Soft sleeper folk are much less communicative. They don’t snore any less though.