故事42 |Mischief and Mishaps in the Middle Kingdom

我在中国的家 2022
故事42 |Mischief and Mishaps in the Middle Kingdom

​August 30th, 1998.

1998 年 8 月 30 日。
The date stamped on the passport I used to first enter China.

My intention was to spend a year in a foreign land. See the world a little. Get to know myself before taking the next step into adulthood. That was twenty-four years ago, and I’m still playfully treading that imaginary line today! 

我想在异国他乡生活一年,见识一下这个世界,迈向成年之前认识自己。那是 24 年前的事了,而我如今仍然在拼命地探寻,探寻那条命运之线!

When I set out for China, 24 years ago, I never expected to fall as deeply in love with this land and its people as I did. Seeped in thousands of years of mystical history, culture, philosophy, and tradition that, to this day, still nudges me toward exploring, searching, and losing myself in a glorious fusion of self-discovery!

24 年前,我动身前往中国,当时的我从未想到会像现在这样深深地爱上这片土地和它的人民。我沉浸在几千年的神秘历史、文化、哲学和传统中,无法自拔,今天仍然促使我去探寻,发现自我的道路上充满着辉煌,渐渐迷失自我!

Throughout these years, I (legally, if not emotionally) became an adult. I married my wonderful, Henan-ese husband (we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary a few months ago), I gave birth to two incredible children, Eiriana, 17 and Liam, 11. I’ve lived in 4 cities: Nanjing; Guangzhou, Beijing, and beautiful Xiamen. I’ve explored the many corners of this wonderful land and met many beautiful people along the way. 

经过这些年的成长,不管在法律上,还是在情感上,我已然成年。我的丈夫是一位杰出的河南人,几个月前我们庆祝了结婚 20 周年纪念日。我们共同养育了两个优秀的孩子,17 岁的 Eiriana和 11 岁的 Liam。我曾在四座城市生活过:南京、广州、北京和美丽的厦门。我已经探索了这片伟大土地的许多角落,途中遇到了许多美丽善良的人。

In my formative years in China, I backpacked around the country on the most minimalist of budgets. With no Chinese and no cellphone (or any other device to help with translation), I quickly learnt how to communicate my needs! Travelling across the country on 48 hour 绿皮 sleeper trains, sharing Yangtze river boat cabins for four with 16 other people, all eager to get home for the Spring Festival, staying in 10RMB-a-night hostels and hitch-hiking from DaZhu to Chengdu after missing the last bus of the day—I smile fondly at the memories made in those early years and how they have contributed to making me the person I am today! 

在我在中国成长的岁月里,我背上行囊,以最低的预算,去全国各地旅游,了解这个国度。我不会中文,也没有手机或任何翻译设备,但我很快就学会了如何沟通,表达我的需要!搭乘绿皮卧铺火车,48 小时穿越中国;与 16 人合租长江游船,他们都急着回家过年;住 10 元一晚的旅馆;错过当天的最后一班公交,不得不搭便车从大竹回到成都……我向这些早年的记忆报以深情的微笑,这些回忆成就了今天的自己。

One memory that has stayed with me is that of a trip I made to an adult learner’s home on the January 1st, New Year, holiday of 1999. At the time I was working at a university in Nanjing, supporting PhD students with their English comprehension and dissertation publications. All of my students were older than me and most of them were married with families. One student invited me to visit his hometown in Anhui province. We took a 6-hour bus-ride from Nanjing to our destination town (the name of which I do not recall). From there, another hour was spent on the back of a tractor that bumped through the countryside until we reached the village home. We arrived dusty and tired, and my student asked if I would like to take a bath to freshen up. 

有一段记忆恍如昨日。那是 1999 年 1 月 1 日元旦假期,我去了一位成年学者家里。当时我在南京的一所大学工作,帮助博士生提高英语理解能力,指导他们发表论文。我的学生年龄都比我大,大多都结婚成家了。一个学生邀请我拜访他的家乡安徽。我们从南京坐了 6 个小时的公交才到达目的地,那个小镇的名字我记不清了。从小镇出发,又花了一个小时坐拖拉机,乡路颠簸,才到达村里的家。我们下车时满身尘土,疲惫不堪,学生问我要不要洗个澡放松一下

。In my, still-quite-new-to-the-country mind, a bath to freshen up before dinner sounded perfect. And a moment later, I found myself being led by the grandmother of the house to another building in the courtyard. We entered the building, passing the cows, and there, in the corner of this room sat a large ‘bath’ made of bricks, with a fire burning underneath. The grandma led me to the ‘bath’ and said something in Chinese. In my China newness, I had no idea what she said, but from her gestures, I assumed that I was to get into the bath. Now, you have to understand the life that I had lived up to this moment! In the UK, it’s not common to take our clothes off or bathe in front of others—even with members of the same sex. So, I sheepishly removed my shoes and socks, pulled up my trouser legs and thought, ‘OK, I’ll just wash my feet!’ I dipped my toes in, but immediately recoiled! WOW!!!!!! That water was HOT!!!! In my minimal Chinese I gasped that the water was “热” – hot. To which grandma replied “烫”. Also hot, but referring to the temperature of liquid.


And here is where my mind started to spiral. You see, the only ‘tang’ I knew up to that point was the kind that you drink with your meal “汤”—soup. You know where this is going don’t you?


I was being cooked! 


Grandma was a witch, and I was to be made into a big pot of soup! (Trauma from “Hansel and Gretel” much?)


So, I resisted, I started to put my shoes and socks back on. This Welsh girl was not being made into soup! No Sir-ee! Not today!


Grandma started to get louder, she seemed to be getting a little frustrated. I was resisting her evil plan.


But then, something strange…. She started to undress herself, get into the water and wash. A wash that looked more like a demonstration, a kind of: “like this, stupid white woman, you wash yourself like this”. And then she ‘helped’ me undress, guided me into the ‘soupy-bath’ and gave me a wash too!


Feeling a little silly, but also grateful that I was not on the menu for today, I enjoyed the rest of my stay and made sure I added “烫” to my list of must know words!


Originally from the Welsh valleys in the UK, Paula has been living and working in the middle kingdom for the past 24 years. Spending most of her time working with children, their families and the teachers who care for them, Paula is a Montessori teacher, teacher trainer and parenting coach. Paula currently lives in Xiamen, China with her husband and 2 children. Her free days are filled with long walks in Xiamen’s beautiful horticultural park, reading, playing Guqin and giggling with her family! She is the founder of Insight, a wellness platform and studio dedicated to supporting the healthy growth and mental well-being of individuals, families, and children everywhere, and the founder of the soon to be released wellbeing APP – THRIVE (www.thrive.uno). 

Paula 来自英国的威尔士山谷,过去的 24 年里一直在中国生活和工作。她大部分时间都围绕着孩子、自己的家庭以及照顾他们的老师打交道,她是一名教师、教师培训师和育儿教练,奉行“蒙台梭利教育法”。Paula 目前与她的丈夫和两个孩子住在中国厦门。她有空会到厦门植物园散步、读书、弹古琴,与家人谈笑。她是 Insight 的创始人,这是一个致力于个人、家庭和儿童健康成长和心理健康的服务平台。她也是即将发布的保健类 APP——THRIVE(www.thrive.uno)的创始人。



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