Ger­man Girls and Chi­nese Babes

Special Focus - - Contents - Meng Shamei

Is­tayed at a friend’s house for a week when I was in Cologne, Ger­many. My friend has two daugh­ters, one fif­teen and the other twelve, both in high school. The day we ar­rived was the last day be­fore their sum­mer hol­i­day and they came home hap­pily from school.

The next morn­ing, there was no alarm for school so they slept in. Later, af­ter en­joy­ing a home cooked break­fast in the yard, they be­gan mak­ing a gift for a friend who was hav­ing a birth­day party that evening. Their par­ents would never pay for those presents—they had to do it them­selves.

The el­der sis­ter cre­ated a birth­day video us­ing iMovie on her iMac. She col­lected pho­tos of her friend through the years, with their fa­vorite music as the sound­track, and added in it birth­day wishes in dif­fer­ent lan­guages given by peo­ple she “in­ter­viewed” on the streets.

The younger sis­ter’s present was an en­vi­ron­men­tal­lyfriendly bag she made us­ing her own sewing ma­chine. She en­joys mak­ing cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories by hand in her spare time, and her par­ents hap­pily sup­ported her hobby by giv­ing her a new sewing ma­chine.

The cost­less, yet thought­ful, gifts made by the two sis­ters were a hit with every­one at the party.

The third day, when I got up in the morn­ing, the twelveyear-old was al­ready in the kitchen, pre­par­ing break­fast for

every­one. She en­joys cook­ing and can cook a wide range of dishes for the fam­ily.

Af­ter break­fast, the two sis­ters cooked again, this time for a refugee boy from Syria.

Last se­mes­ter, the el­der sis­ter took part in a pro­gram at school to help this boy, Ali, in­te­grate into Ger­man so­ci­ety. Ev­ery week, she’d spend a whole af­ter­noon with him teach­ing him ba­sic Ger­man, in­tro­duc­ing him to the neigh­bors and tak­ing him shop­ping. She re­ceived an “A” in the pro­gram and got along well with Ali.

Even though it was hol­i­day, the sis­ters didn’t want Ali to fall be­hind in his learn­ing, so they took lunch to his house and gave him a Ger­man les­son, as usual.

They ride bikes when­ever they go to school or go on an out­ing, and never ask their par­ents to pick them up.

In two weeks, they’re off to south­ern France with their par­ents for a va­ca­tion. It’s noth­ing lux­u­ri­ous, though: they are go­ing to drive there and stay in an old farm­house. Ev­ery day they can go shop­ping and cook in the farm­house, and then take a walk, cy­cle, swim, read books, or just stargaze.

I fig­ured that, ex­cept for the cost of the farm­house and petrol, the two girls wouldn’t spend a cent on their sum­mer hol­i­day.

By con­trast, my friend’s ten-year-old daugh­ter in Shang­hai would spend a cou­ple of months’ worth of her par­ents’ salary on her sum­mer hol­i­day.

She reg­is­tered for a swim­ming class, which isn’t cheap in a crowded, big city like Shang­hai. She also signed up for English and math classes, which cost them a small for­tune, and forced her par­ents to drive her back and forth to class in the blaz­ing sum­mer heat.

More­over, her par­ents ap­plied to a “Model Amer­i­can Univer­sity Sum­mer Camp” for the pur­pose of get­ting her to “learn about west­ern cul­ture and ex­pand her hori­zons.” Un­doubt­edly, such an international camp shall ask for an international price to match.

I told my Chi­nese friend about the two Ger­man girls. She sighed and said the Euro­peans are lucky.

Then I told the story of the Shang­hai girl to my Ger­man friend, who also sighed and said, “No won­der they say the fu­ture be­longs to China.”

(From Ori­en­tal Out­look, Is­sue 29, 2016. Trans­la­tion: Liu Lili)

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