hello lenny

an intern abroad blog

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“English” Names According to Chinese People

“Good evening, my name is Monday and I will be your server for tonight.”

Or something like that.

I began tutoring the new hires yesterday on English pronunciation and vocabulary, and thought it’d be a good idea to learn their names.

Most of them were normal – Kelsey, Aaron, and Leo – while others were downright laughable – Funny (haha), Burning, and Monday.

Monday named herself after her first day of work. God forbid she finds a new job and starts on a Tuesday.

Burning named himself after a song.

I found out today that even the normal ones were heard incorrectly. Kelsey is actually Cathy and Leo is actually Lyon (like France…) Aaron, on the other hand, is actually spelled Aalon. These people actually made a commendable effort to think of a reasonable English name and are working hard on their pronunciation. For Funny, Burning, and Monday though… I’m not quite sure I get the logic. After all, it’s not like these “names” are even literal translations of Chinese names.

It is quite adorable though, and I named a new hire myself! Her name is Clover, which isn’t a typical English name, but we’re in China – where Funny is apparently a name – so 入乡随俗. (When in Rome, do as Romans do)


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Job Changes

As of this past Tuesday, I am now an assistant employee trainer. Yep, I went from planning events to training new hires. Funny how fluid our company hierarchy is, but I suppose that’s what happens when the rate of employee turnover is so high. Other than having no one else to appoint, I fail to see why I was chosen. But what the boss says, goes. Especially when he’s prone to verbal abuse.

Although I’ve been here for a little over a month now, I still have much to learn about the restaurant and its operations. As an event planning intern, I spent most of my time in the office and in our private events venue, coordinating behind the scenes work. So, it honestly kind of baffles me why I got chosen to train new waiters and waitresses, when I haven’t the slightest idea about how the restaurant operates. In fact, everything I know about our training process has been through reading outdated PowerPoints. Which, by the way, I made a record 34 of yesterday.

I’m still iffy about my new position, as I feel I am unprepared and somewhat ill-qualified, but training is an important aspect of employee integration and it will do me good to be more involved in a project.

As an event planner, nearly everything I did had to go through a grapevine. As such, there was little room for creative problem solving. Honestly, I don’t think I was very good at event planning, so I’m quite relieved to be trying my hand at something else. Hopefully it will go well.

Regardless! I have the next three days off, so that means I can go somewhere fun for the upcoming Dragonboat Festival.

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

Home is where the heart is, and my home is nearly 7,000 miles and over 13 hours away from where I currently am. This past Friday marked the one month anniversary of my return to Beijing and the beginning of my life alone. Some things in Beijing remained the same: my old school, the permanent gray sky, people at every corner. However, in the 3 years since I’ve last been here, it’s the little differences that unsettle me: the spaghetti in my favorite potato salad at 7-Eleven, the absence of the congee store near my school, the transportation price hike and the addition of new subway lines. In a sense I have a feeling of 归宿 (returning home) in Beijing, but at the same time, it’s different and I’m different.

I live alone in a company sponsored apartment, which is little more than a glorified hotel room and what I imagine to be a 2 or 3 star one. With double beds, desk, dresser, and bathroom, it reeks of cramped hotel-style living, and not even the fancy kind. Stepping out of my “apartment” is little more than hutongs – narrow Beijing alleyways – and little cigarette and beer marts. Any restaurants, if street stalls count, in the area – aside from my workplace, of course – hawk food of questionable hygiene. The area near Jingshan Park and Forbidden City is the most central area of Beijing, and thus designated as an area for historical preservation. There is little evidence of modern, citysleek Beijing here. There are no highrises or fancy skyscrapers. It’s very different from where I had previously lived – an apartment near the Temple of Heaven. And as an intern in China working a 45+ hour workweek, my life has taken a turn for the mundane. Sure, work life is busy and educational, but other than working day in and day out, there’s not much time for exploring or socializing. It’s a washing machine cycle of wake up, work, eat, sleep, wash, rinse, and repeat. Also, it can be pretty lonely coming home from a tiring day of work to nobody and a bowl of instant ramen.

This weekend though, I felt that feeling of returning home to Beijing though. I felt like a 17 year old again, still childlike in my ways and needing to be taken care of. I felt like once again, I belonged here.

My host sister from 3 years ago recently graduated at 17 years old and took the university entrance examination for Communication University of China. And now that she is free from the pressures of a Chinese high school senior, we had the chance to see each other again. Yesterday and today, I spent time with her, her parents, and her extended family. Despite the newest addition to the family, a baby cousin who quickly adjusted to calling me 姐姐 (big sister), being with them evoked feelings of deja vu. Hours spent during weekends with her family; visiting her mother’s side and then her father’s side. It particularly made me happy to see her grandparents, lively and well, including her maternal grandfather who joked – or maybe not – about me finding a boyfriend in China and her paternal grandmother who recently celebrated turning 82 despite a health scare the past year. Also, they praised me for being more fair-skinned than last time, haha, and possibly skinnier, before retracting that last statement upon closer examination. I’ve always thought of them as my own family and one of the happiest moments of my life was when both of my real family and my Chinese host family were together in America. And even if my home and heart are 7,000 miles away in America, with my host family, if only for a fleeting moment, I can feel like my body and heart are together once more.

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Countdown – 7 Days

In exactly a week’s time, I will be in Beijing. I should be excited and I guess I am, but I’ve been so busy lately that there has been little time for any mental preparation. Though, being busy can be a good thing, as I’m not quite sure how one can prepare for 4 months in a foreign country.

Packing is the obvious choice, but I haven’t put much thought into that with school not yet over. I’m done with all of my exams and working on my last paper right now. The grand total was 4 exams, which is not bad for a 7 class semester. I just submitted my 20 page thesis and things are finally looking up! 2 more days until I go home and 6 until I board the plane.


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Beijing Bound

It’s official! I’m going to Beijing for the summer. I’m flying May 11th (exactly a week after my last final, yikes) and returning the 31st of August.

Those of you who know me personally probably know how much I love Beijing. Despite its generally bad rap as the home of pollution and the Chinese government, I love it. I love it: the dorky tracksuit uniforms, the Engrish, and the heavy 儿化 Mandarin. Oh, and Beijing duck. (Though real Beijingers know that the 炸酱面 is where it’s at.)

Despite only being there for four months three years ago, I fell in love with it and have been itching to go back ever since. So, I am. This summer, I will be an event planning intern at Temple Restaurant Beijing.

It’s definitely a lot different from before. I’m no longer 17 years old – I won’t be studying at a local high school or living with a loving host family. Most of my friends there are in college now or are graduating high school. The Beijing of 3 years ago is probably gone as well. But I’m excited to go back on my own this time.

Beijing, are you ready?