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25
Apr
2011
Chinese Cultural Intricacies E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Jamie
So, to protect the names of the innocent or the innocence of the names, I will use English names when talking about people in China. Of course, if you happen to be one of the Expats working here at the college that have real life English names like Erin (real name) or Hope (real name), you’re screwed. Your name will be sullied and soiled like so much dirty laundry. Everyone will know when you get on my nerves. By everyone I mean the four people (including my mom and you guys) who read this Blog.

On a side note, the age old habit of giving Chinese students English names (no doubt started hundreds of years ago by those silly tokin’ Brits when they were trying to bilk China out of opium) bothers me somewhat. I keep meeting students at the college (it’s actually how I spend most of my free time). We chat for awhile. I use up all my Chinese; they use up their English; and when its time to depart, we exchange names. I say…I am Jamie (my real name) they say “my name is Betty (not their real name)” or “Alan (not their real name).” I then insist they give me their Chinese name. So they tell me, “my name is Xu Guo Bing (a real life Chinese name).”

I then spend the next ten minutes mispronouncing their names to their laughter and glee. Finally they tire of this game and begin to assure me my pronunciation if flawless (not an actual fact).  

After that, I quickly try to forget the names I have just learned because I need that brain space for important guy-brain-space-stuff like sports facts, cool movie lines and phone numbers of ex-girlfriends who don’t actually hate me. I think I got off track a little…but still…where’s the dignity in us pretending your name is Betty (not your real name) when we both know it’s a stupid name that one of the English teachers (Erin (real name), Hope (real name)) here at the college gave you. Probably Erin (real name) or Hope (real name) thought you looked like a Betty (not your real name). So anyway…I don’t normally take part in this silliness unless you have a cool English name like Jamie (my real name). However, for the purpose of my blog I will use English names for the Chinese students…unless I remember their Chinese names. (if your name is Betty and you read this Blog…I’m sorry but your real name is probably not Betty either)-

I like when my side notes are longer than my not side notes. Background information and asides are all the really interesting stuff in the world. G.K. Chesterton takes issue with the phrase “the devil is in the details.” And whose gunna argue with G.K.C.? Not I.

So on Sunday, we (some foreigners) met with a guy from CCTV (we’ll call him “Betty”) to talk about our upcoming movie roles. Basically he, Betty, needs some foreigners to be foreigners in an upcoming mini-series on CCTV Channel 1 (not one of the better Channels I gather, but still a nationwide Channel) that has foreigners in it. He was happy when he met us. He kept commenting that we all looked really foreign. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I am playing the part of a foreign assassin. But now I have new information about my part. I am going to be the foreign assassin who specializes in knives. I think it’s interesting that I am the knife guy because when I was a young lad, I almost hit my then six-years old little sister with a lawn dart (one of the more safe and fun inventions of the 80’s). I haven’t really been able to talk about it until now. So obviously, it has all come full circle now, and I guess I’m, well, perfect for the role.

Other details: We only shoot on the weekends because all the other foreigners are students or teachers. I will be doing a lot of scuba diving in my role. I also find this interesting because it’s really hard to tell a foreign scuba diver apart from a Chinese scuba diver. Since we are getting paid 500 RMB a day (non speaking parts) to 1000 RMB a day (speaking parts) and we get to do it in beautiful Sanya, I am not mentioning my scuba diving observation. I am going to save this money and use it for my Spring Festival trip to Anhui and Shanghai.

Then entire set up seemed pretty cool until the CCTV guy, Betty, said that part of shoot would be in Haikou’s sewage system. Now Betty seemed like he had a wicked sense of humor, but I don’t find human waste funny (ok, actually I find it hilarious, but only when I’m making the jokes). However, if I am getting 1000 RMB for a speaking part, I should get 3000 RMB for a speaking part in a sewer.

I can’t imagine a Hainan sewer. I mean, I often smell a sewer smell in seemingly clean Hainan places where no sewer smell should be present (like classroom building # 3 here on campus…

I have always wondered what the classrooms at NC State (Moo U) smell like, well no longer) Simply put, the sewers are unimaginable.

I’m not a namby-pamby kinda guy, but my contract will have a sewer proviso, or they can say good-bye knife guy! On a really short side note, I did make sure that the sewer scene and the scuba diving scene were not in fact, the same scene.

The television mini-series is about a country filled with greedy white foreigners (maybe Iceland?) attacking a small helpless Island filled with Chinese people (maybe San Francisco?) for its rich oil deposits. I don’t know where they came up with this script (maybe CNN?), but I think this will be a winner. I can already see the reviews. “Can’t miss television event of the year”—Haikou Daily, “Award winning acting, especially by the knife guy. His accurate portrayal of oil-grubbing, SUV driving Icelanders should cause us to rethink our entire attitude towards Bjork.” San Francisco Chronicle.

Well I was going to cover a lot of really important Chinese cultural intricacies in this posting on New Dynasty, but I guess I got off track somewhere

Our valuable Editor Jamie has been with us since Monday, 25 April 2011.
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Comments  

 
+1 #2 Cheese 2011-04-25 08:00
Don't you think you are being somewhat patronising?

Most Chinese students of English like having "English names" and your attitude that it isn't their real name is ridiculous.

////////// It is not their real name. Your conclusion is ridiculous.

Your name is what you call yourself.

////////// Your name is what your father and mother gave you. It is eternal.

In 15 years of college teaching in China, out of the thousands I have taught, I have met precisely one student who did not have and did not want an English name. She is still a good friend and still only uses her Chinese name, something I totally respect.

////////// This statement stays in direct opposition to your last statement.

Many students choose their own English name, but if they are given names by someone else, so what?

////////// I give you the name Mickey Mouse. So what? Accept it.I gave it to you. For Free.

Did you choose your "real" name? No. Your parents did. And I bet it isn't "Jamie".

////////// I am not Jamie. I will change my name, according to your view as I please. Apple James Batman Zhang? Is that O.k.?

I am still in touch with student who graduated over 15 years ago and who still use their English names. It is as much as part of them as any other name they may have.

////////// It is as much part of them like ice cream with olives.

////////// You are contracdictory as hell. Like a Chinese. Get out of China as fast as you can. Just for a few weeks. To get your mind straight again. Then come back :-).
Quote
 
 
-3 #1 Liuzhou Laowai 2011-04-25 07:30
Don't you think you are being somewhat patronising?

Most Chinese students of English like having "English names" and your attitude that it isn't their real name is ridiculous. Your name is what you call yourself. In 15 years of college teaching in China, out of the thousands I have taught, I have met precisely one student who did not have and did not want an English name. She is still a good friend and still only uses her Chinese name, something I totally respect.

Many students choose their own English name, but if they are given names by someone else, so what? Did you choose your "real" name? No. Your parents did. And I bet it isn't "Jamie".

I am still in touch with student who graduated over 15 years ago and who still use their English names. It is as much as part of them as any other name they may have.
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