Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

This morning I signed up for a new Chinese class at "Global Village." I have been gone for over a month, so it didn't make sense to try to go back to my previous class. But I was really thinking of changing anyway, because even though I really liked the book I was in, I was starting to get behind, because my level of "hanzi" (kanji) wasn't quite up to the level of the book. Sometimes my Chinese friends tell me that I shouldn't worry about hanzi, because I can just use the "pinyin" (romanized character) alphabet. But this is not true. You need to learn characters. All the language books teach language based on characters. If you don't learn characters, you can't take classes.

I walked into my class a few minutes late. A bunch of Korean working girls. They all stared at me. One of them finally broke the ice,

"You look like Santa Claus."

Another one placed her hand next to mine, "Your hand is big."

OK, got that part over with. There are lots of Korean working people in Wudaokou. In fact, the language school itself is a Korean company. Wudaokou is a draw for Korean working folks, because there are many companies that will hire Koreans if they have a modicum of Mandarin language skill.

Not everyone has benefited from China's boom. The economic sink hole of Shenyang (formerly known in the West as "Mukden," the capital of Manchuria) paid a high price for China's prosperity, because state owned enterprises there were ordered to lay off as many people as they needed to become profitable. Nevertheless, the tremendous volume of foreign capital flowing into China has generated tens of thousands of jobs, and has produced entire communities of foreigners who come to work for the enterprising entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of the extraordinary economic opportunity.

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