Posted by: 1of10boyz | November 7, 2011

What’s in a name?


We are determined to make our driver’s family part of family. In order to make this happen we ask him and his family to dinner with us on his first day at work. We knew his English skills were very limited, but now realize that he speaks less English than I speak Chinese so we are going to have a very quiet evening unless we get some translation help. We ask Li Qi to come to dinner with us so that she can help us through the evening. Have I mentioned that she is really a wonderful young lady?

We got everything coordinated to go to dinner and meet together at the Expert Village to leave. I tell Li Qi that one of the most important tasks that the driver has, after my safety, is to make sure that I eat at some very local, good by Chinese standards, restaurants; but places that might not be on the beaten path for an ex-patriot. We want him to assist us with ordering food and want him to have that responsibility. Our limitation being that it can’t be too spicy, I have little-girl taste buds.

We go to one of the many seafood restaurants here in Haiyang. This place does have some good seafood places, one of the many advantages of being a seaport with a local fishing fleet. We enter and wander through the several rows aquariums and past the tubs with fish on ice and other crates of items that I am certain were never intended to be eaten when they were created. I cross my fingers and hope that we don’t get the silkworm larvae.

Once we have the food on order we go to the room, I have always wondered why we always get one of the rooms on the 2nd or 3rd floor and why we are never seated downstairs in the eating area like the local Chinese. I wonder if it is for “our benefit” or if it is for the benefit of the “regular” patrons. We do introductions and it doesn’t take us long to realize that we have a real problem. We can’t pronounce our drivers first name nor his wife’s name. You can’t have a member of you family called “hey you” or Mr. Xu. We really want him to be part of our family; and he and his family have to have names that we can say without butchering. None of them, husband, wife, or son, has English names.

We wonder out loud how Li Qi got her English name, Cindy. She described over the first course of dinner how Cindy came to be. She got it in her first English class in college. The teacher had written a number of English names on the blackboard on the first day of class. They went around the room selecting a name off the board. When it was Li Qi’s turn her first choice had been taken, which was Maggie, and so she selected Cindy. I told her that it was quite common in American classrooms for several students to have the same name; she should have picked the name that she wanted anyway. But LaDawna and I also told her that she didn’t really “look” like a Maggie to us. I told her that I only knew one Maggie that wasn’t a “larger” woman and Cindy seemed like a better fit. Li Qi was fascinated that we would be able to say that she didn’t look like a “Maggie”, guess I hadn’t really thought about it but names have some significance to me and there is a look that rings true in my mind’s eye for names. Guess it is kind of the visual learner that I am. I asked the driver and his family if it would be OK for us to pick some English names for them to help us better communicate. They agreed that this would be OK.

We had an enjoyable evening and as “required” by Chinese custom there was much food left. I ask Li Qi why this was the standard and why I had never really seen anyone use the “doggy bag” approach to leftovers in China. I found out that it is most appropriate that food remains after meals, when food is all gone after a meal then the person responsible might feel that not sufficient food was provided and could feel that he/she insulted the guests by not providing sufficiently. Since I was treating and now understand the custom, I was glad to see food left. The Chinese have only recently removed the stigma related to the doggy bag approach to leftovers. It used to indicate that you were wanting in food or poor so most times the food was left to be wasted. So much for my Mother’s typical scolding about starving children in China when I didn’t eat all of my food. Since there is no longer a stigma I ask them to please take the leftovers home and use them.

As I mentioned I place some significance to a name. I know that sounds just a little hypocritical because they do have names and I could call them by their Chinese names, maybe as I get better with the mandarin language I will be able to do that, in the meantime I need something that works. It is also a prestige thing among the Chinese to have an English name so, in my delusional mind, I am helping even if it is just a small thing think like an English name. I spent some time in thought about what we should call our driver and the members of his family. I want to call them names that fit well with their Chinese names when possible.  I think that I want to call our driver, Hyrum.  I think his son’s Chinese name sounds a little like Joseph when his parents say it. I would like to call the drivers wife Rachael. When I first came up with the names I thought it was kind of weird as I wasn’t trying to make some weird statement with them but I feel good about the name choices.

We told them what names we would like to call them on our return trip from Taishan and Qufu. They were happy with the names we selected so we now have a name that we call them by. Welcome to our family, Hyrum, Rachael, and Joseph.

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