Just for fun we had a little “what did you do today” conversation in class on Wednesday.
This is Nini (click here for her blog). She’s one of our Level 4 students and just turned 10 in this March. Aside from regular grade 4 and three nights a week at PEI, she takes piano, clarinet, flute, Japanese lessons, and I forget what sport. She usually shows up at PEI two hours early to do her Chinese homework before scarfing down some food and starting our two-hour English class at 7pm. She is perpetually exhausted and gets mediocre grades. Last class she slept on her desk during break instead of playing with the other kids. She hopes to get reincarnated as an American. Although I find that appalling (the American part, not the reincarnation =), I can hardly blame her.
Her parents were both famous actors in Taiwan. Her father is now a politician and her mother is a radio personality – a high profile and upperclass family. Our other students have seen her mom in TV commercials. Most people in Taipei know their names.
Her father wanted boy, but he got three daughters instead. They named Nini’s youngest sister 娣娣. She’s named this because 娣娣 is pronounced exactly the same as the affective term of address for “little brother”: 弟弟 (siblings often call each other “older sister” or “younger brother”). The only difference is that the symbol for ‘female’ (女) is added to the characters for ‘little brother’ (弟). When her name is written you can tell it refers to a girl, but not when spoken.
Like the woman who was passionate in her belief that the father in The Parable of the Lost Son was wrong, Nini and her sister are more blips on the cultural radar; just the first few strokes of a massive picture we’re slowly painting in our minds of what it’s like to live here.