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(2008-02-18 14:47:37)



谢谢你,出现过     by Elsa Zhang      


Thank You for Appearing



This year, Tianjin’s winter was a bit slower than last year’s. Although it has already entered the deep winter season, the cold weather has still been at a level that I can bear. When I was walking on the street, some scarves started dancing along with the gentle breeze. Two alternately black and white magpies flew roundabout above and in the branches of their nest, and a burst of clear jabbering was heard, causing me to lift my head a watch for a little while and remember one year’s winter, where, when I was walking with a German designer friend, we also saw magpies, and she told me, “In Germany, there is also this kind of bird.”


This very prestigious designer’s name was Aurora, from Hanover, Germany, a city which seems as though from when it was constructed to have been shrouded in an artistic atmosphere. That year when I met her, she was already sixty or more years old, but she had so much energy and a spirit of professionalism that all of the surrounding young people had to admit that they were not her equals.

I was engaged in the work of translation, and from the time I entered (at that time) my company’s internship, I started translating various postal items, letters, and faxes from Aurora. After several months passed, she was no longer a stranger to me. When learning that she wanted to come to Tianjin, I was more excited than anyone else, because we had already used the mail to exchange information for a long time. Although the inscriptions on the letters definitely weren’t addressed to me, and the contents were all related with some kind of engineering work, however, I already considered her to be a distant friend.   

With other foreign consultants and engineers who came to Tianjin it was different. Aurora didn’t use me to pick her up at the airport, and would at the same time call out greetings to the people around her and laughingly enter the office. I knew that she only was going to work here for a week, and naturally wanted to finish her work as early as possible, so I patiently waited on my “pen pal.”

Simply saying hello to the boss, Aurora and I entered the design room together. Her working style of directly running towards the goal allowed my eyes to be enlightened.


The next job even more so allowed me to really appreciate this elderly German lady’s many fine qualities. All of her actions were genuine, and were definitely not done for other people to watch or her words said in a way for others to please their ears. In the planning room were about seven to eight young people, and each person’s work had already received her patient attention. I was to one side unceasingly speaking two languages, and considering changing my job, and furthermore, frequently without taking a second’s delay. When it was almost time to get off work, I felt that my facial muscles were already almost approaching deadlock. Seeing her throw herself into work like this, the surrounding people, without exception, were influenced. Occasionally, a young person would ooze out a couple of sentences completely unrelated to the topic of work, and she could totally sense that, but she would continue to look at her material, and it wouldn’t become an obstruction, as she never would take part in it.


The space between work and life is very open. To equally grasp in an outstanding way these two is my ideal condition. Seeing Aurora’s work style, made me feel it was much to my taste, and of course, I, when in the middle of translating non-stop, learned so much designing knowledge.


After the first day of work finished, the driver and I took her to the Friendship Hotel. She was proud to show me around her temporary room, and I think this was her way of expressing that she was satisfied with our hospitality. I took out some Chinese dates that a colleague of mine had recently brought back from a business trip, and offered them to her to eat. She, surprised, held this dark green fruit in her hands and asked me, “Are all of Tianjin’s apples this small?” When hearing my explanation that this was a date (Zao), she immediately wrapped it up in tissue, in order to take it back to Germany to plant. Remembering this now, I saw it as kind of linked to cultural exchange, and helped her to wrap it up. Aurora was never bored with this kind of cultural exchange between Germany and China. She told me that last year, when she came to Tianjin, she saw to the side of the road some people selling some very interesting things and bought some to take back to her husband. She was really happy and asked the man if he would take a picture with her, and this embarrassed seller couldn’t help but agree to this old lady’s request. I never expected that this time when Aurora came to Tianjin, she actually brought back that photo and went looking for where she saw the peddler last year. Just like a movie story, that person was still at his former place. It’s not hard to imagine that when he accepted the photo from this old foreign lady, his mouth kept opening wider and wider!


Using the phrase, “Quiet like water, but acts like fire,” to describe my German friend is not even a little excessive. When she was working, she was totally engrossed in it. People to the side would forget that she was designing the blueprints from the slightest, scattered effort. However, in life, she would become a completely different person. Her hobbies included ice skating, horseback riding, and swimming. Oh, that’s right, also bungee jumping! When I heard this, it was my turn for my mouth to get wider and wider.    


In order to satisfy Aurora’s strong curiosity, I started working hard to introduce her to the city of Tianjin, from six hundred years ago when it was built…


“Tianjin is an ancient city with six hundred years of history, and the name comes from words meaning “The Emperor’s Pier.” At present the most flourishing commerce street is focused around the Gold Street (JinJie) area….” I never expected my eloquence to stir up an even greater amount of curiosity in this old lady. Around ten at night or so, I had to stop the free talk with Aurora, and when I started to say goodbye, she would again and again urge me to stay. It was only when I said that I was going back early to ensure that I was well rested for the morrow’s work that she would start to advise me to be safe in returning home, and then would pass on some knowledge on how to deal with bad people if I happened upon them, etc. When I left the Friendship Hotel I would continuously reproach myself for not having left earlier, after all, old people are not like young people, and recently staying in an unfamiliar place, the best was for her to sleep early. Besides, her workload was quite large, as I noticed out of the corner of my eye.


The next day, I deliberately got up very early, and was the first to the Design Room to prepare for work. When Aurora saw me, her first sentence was, “My dear, Gold Street is prettier than I imagined! But if you want to buy things, I think it’s better to go to the street that intersects with it, as it’s more suitable. Although I went at a time when most of the shops were closing up, however, I can still imagine how it must flourish on the weekends.” God! After I left Aurora at the Friendship Hotel, she actually went out by herself to Gold Street and Bingjiangdao! If I was put in an unfamiliar city, and the language was completely different, also, with nobody to lead me around, I definitely wouldn’t be able to do anything! And furthermore, at this moment, she actually resolutely and decisively told me that the place she went was the one she heard from my mouth. An old lady from Europe, in the middle of the night exploring Tianjin by herself…oh my God!


Afterwards, after my self-examination, I needed to think again; a young and inexperienced hothead, and an old, naughty child who still retained childlike qualities, in such a situation it seems to barely be able to be called reasonable.


When we began to understand Aurora’s worldview and value system, the week’s work was approaching the end. At this moment, the design section was responsible for so many different things, and even the office’s normally most active colleague could only mechanically smile or laugh. Although I cannot always see my own expression, however, I know that the word, “exhausted,” was always printed upon my face, because I had to translate every single word that was said in the office for Aurora and at the same time translate each and every word precisely for those in the office. But I didn’t want to say any complaining words, for that would only increase my shame, because Aurora from beginning to end still resembled that calm she had when first stepping off of the plane. “Any questions? You know I am leaving.” Still, her tone was full of good spirits.


Since Aurora had been eating with us in the cafeteria for a week now, I remember at that time, because of excessive speaking, protecting my vocal cords had become my first priority. So when I saw on the cafeteria tray the unsuitably spicy fish-flavored chicken (YuXiangJiSi), I didn’t dare touch it. Aurora up to now has always opposed waste, and my small discretion of course couldn’t escape her sharp eyes. “Full?” At the same time she was glancing at the food that I’d left cold. “No, I’m still a little short of being full.” Here, I was pretending that there was no problematic situation. Hereupon, I took the spicy food along with the non-spicy food and put it all in my mouth.


For Aurora’s first Christmas after she returned to her country, I sent her a certain Chinese classical music CD, and heard that she was very happy.


I don’t know what this lovely elderly German woman is busy with now; at the least, I know she is not idle. In her life, one person studying one skill, then after that applying all that they’ve learned, and spending a life in pursuit of one kind of work, is not at all surprising. In comparison, my life looks like it has suffered many upheavals. That time I spent with Aurora working already seems like long ago, like something that would’ve happened in the previous century. However, whenever I remember it a second time, every scene comes clearly into view. Mine is unstable, and she has not gotten used to using e-mail, so that has caused our contact to become less and less. Whenever I see magpies, winter dates, or when I go shopping at Gold Street, I always remember Aurora. At the time when I first stepped into society, this old woman emerged into my life, and getting to know her has allowed me to feel joy. Perhaps she was never conscious of her one-time influence on a young, ‘not yet wet behind the ears’ girl. I didn’t spend much time before I started to choose a more challenging line of work, and my life is now and then experiencing change. But Aurora’s name is from beginning to end situated in my mind, and never will be erased from it.


The northern wind is again whizzing at me, the magpies in their nest are not coming out anymore, I tighten my scarf, and then continue walking on forward.
















第一天工作结束后我和司机一起把她送回了友谊宾馆。她很自豪地向我展示了这间刚刚成为她的下榻地不久的房间,我想她是在以这种方式来向我表示她对我们的招待很满意。我拿出刚刚出差回来的同事带回来的冬枣给她吃,她惊讶地捧着这种青绿色的水果不解地问我:“天津的苹果都这么小吗?”听到我一遍一遍地解释这是“date(枣)” 的时候,她立刻用纸巾把枣核包好,准备带回德国去栽种,想到这也是跨文化交流的其中一个环节,我也动手帮她包了起来。Arora对于中德两国的文化交流一直是这样乐此不疲。她告诉我她去年来天津的时候,看到路边卖的一些小东西很有意思,就买下来准备带回国送给她先生。并开心地要求与卖主拍照,羞涩的卖主只好答应了老人家。没想到此次天津之行Arora竟然带来了在德国冲洗好的一年前的照片又回到去年那个地方去找当时的小贩。犹如安排好的电影情节一般,那人竟然原地未动。不难想象当他接过这位外国老太太给他送来的照片时嘴巴的直径会扩张到多长。








第二天我特意起了个大早,第一个来到设计室做准备工作。Arora见到我之后第一句话竟是:“亲爱的,金街比我想象的还要漂亮!但如果想买东西我觉得还是去和它交叉的那条商业街更适合。虽然我去的时候很多商场已经打烊了,但我还是能想象出它在周末的繁华样子。”天啊!Arora竟然在我离开宾馆之后一个人摸索着去了金街和滨江道!!如果把我放在一个陌生的城市,语言完全不通,也没有任何人带领,我一定是寸步难行的!而此时的她竟然如此斩钉截铁地告诉我她去的地方一定就是从我嘴里听到那个金街!一个欧洲来的老太太,在深夜时分独自游津城,my god!




当我们已经开始了解Arora的世界观以及价值观的时候,一个星期的工作也已经接近了尾声。此时设计部主管的嘴里已经长了N个泡,平时办公室里最活跃的同事也只能机械地咧嘴笑笑。虽然我不能随时看到自己的表情,但我知道“疲惫”二字是随时被印在脸上的,因为我要把办公室里每个人说的每句话都翻译给Arora听,同时要把她的一字一句准确地传达给设计室里的每个人。但我不想说任何抱怨的话,那样只能令我更加羞愧难当。因为Arora始终像刚下飞机时一样从容、坦然、平和。“any questions? You know I am leaving.” (还有什么问题吗?我可是要走了哦。)依然是精神饱满的口吻。











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