Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Do you speak Chinese?

So I did my good deed for the day: I was walking back to my car when this elderly lady approached me and asked in Chinese (Mandarin) if I spoke Chinese, Xian sheng, qing wen ni hui jiang hua yu mah?

"Uh oh," I immediately thought, "She is probably going to try and sell me 3 packets of tissue paper for two dollars or something" (blame my cynicism on my years in Singapore). But I talked to her anyways. It turned out that she was lost and was trying to get to Rio Vista Avenue, Cupertino. And she, hardly speaking a word of English, had traveled down south from Union City by herself by public transport, to Santa Clara on this rather warm summer day.

Though I understood her reasonably well, there was no way I could help her at that moment.

A little later, back in my car, I consulted my stash of maps and discovered that the street she was looking for was less than 2 miles away. The devil on one shoulder reminded me that I was sleepy; it is warm; my room is in the shade; and an undisturbed afternoon siesta awaited me back at my apartment. The angel on the other, sang with its stupid harp a lament of a lost and thirsty, old Chinese woman wandering in the sweltering heat.

Damn angel.

And so, I drove up to the bus stop, and told the little old lady, with her straw hat, length of ribbon extending down and round her chin, her Eaglecreek backpack, and all, that I found out where she wanted to go; pointed out her present location and her destination on the map, and offered to drive her there.

Cautious of about entering a complete stranger's vehicle (we should all be), she demurred and said she would walk the 2 miles there (in 85 F at 12 noon???). I assured her that I meant no harm, and said in my best pseudo-Chinese accent, Auntie, hen yuan ah! Wo sun lu. Lang wo kai qi che zhai nin qu bah! Yes, it was a white lie. It was wasn't "on the way," but heck, it's only 2 miles. (Unlike that clueless Singaporean IRCer who demanded that I give him a ride from LAX. Talk about failing Geography 101. I'm near San Jose, HELLO?)

Along the short journey, I found out that my curious passenger was born in Ipoh, Malaysia; briefly lived in Singapore; spent a great many years in Taiwan, and now resides with her extended family in Union City. She undertook today's journey to visit her Chinese calligraphy teacher in Cupertino. Mighty brave for a 71-year-old lady who can only manage a handful of phrases in English, IMHO.

I think the dreams from my afternoon siesta were a lot sweeter thereafter...

On the walls of one of the stairwells in the Benson Memorial Building, in Santa Clara University, hangs a large banner with the "3 Cs" that have been ingrained in me over the years: Competence, Conscience, and Compassion. I have lost track of the number of "Cs" the denizens of a certain city-state-island-country in South East Asia hawk after (6?), much less do I remember what all their "Cs" represent (Cash, Credit, Car, Condominium, Country club, C...?), but I am quite sure that the "3 Cs" I learned are ultimately more valuable.

In his closing thoughts to a lecture on “The Ethics of Governance,” on Wednesday, January 12, 2005, the Honorable Jamil Mahaud, Former President of Ecuador said,

At the end of the day—at the end of your life—the only person that you can guarantee to be with you, is you. Therefore, cultivate a good relationship with yourself. All your decisions, at the end of the day—at the end of your life—essentially lead to a choice between two outcomes: whether you sleep well, or eat well. I would choose to sleep well. If you can eat well as well, then thank God.

If I ever have kids, I will be sure to give them a Jesuit education.

Sleep well.


Blogger crufty said...

You left out the part where she told you about her hot granddaughter who happens to like tall, dark, handsome, helpful strangers who can't really communicate in Chinese... :p

Hahaha... kidding aside, good on you bud. Sleep and eat well.

1:34 AM  
Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

That old lady really has got the guts!

71-years old and living in a land where you hardly know the language, travelling alone on public transportation to visit an old teacher. And getting into a total stranger's car in the land where (if the press is to be believed) the crime rate is so bad that residents joke about having rear gunners on bread delivery trucks..

I want to be as brave as she is, if I make it to 71.

3:01 AM  
Blogger daftbitch said...

applause for Ben... really really really sweet of you to help an old lady...

And another round of applause for Ben... for being able to converse in mandarin...

Ohhh time to head down to cingular, verizon, t-mobile...

10:33 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...


Ben you're currently studying in Santa Clara as well? That's great! And thanks on the advice on food in the area.

2:24 PM  
Blogger -ben said...

LOL! Well, I already know a hot gal (well, 2 of them, daftbitch being one *grin*). Heh...

I agree. That little old lady is gutsy. Either that or my Chinese is really good (which can't be the case since the highest I had ever gotten for Chinese was a D7).

Aww... *bow* *bow* *curtsy*
I figured that driving her 2 miles will be more original than helping her cross the road. ;-P
Now about that blasted cell phone business...

I have already graduated from Santa Clara University, but I still make it a point to get involved with the religious community there. I still getI forgot to add a little known secret (talk about a redundant phrase, ha!): You can dine at Adobe Lodge. It is the building beside the Jesuit residence, or the building sandwiched between Lafayette and St. Joseph Hall. It is supposed to be for faculty and staff, but actually anyone can eat there. Most students do not know this though. The value for money and quality is much better than the overpriced pig swill Bon Appetit serves up in the Marketplace (cafeteria) at Benson Memorial Center.

Read that you are doing your LLM at SCU Sch of Law. Good luck and happy studying!

4:22 AM  

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