23. March 2013 · Comments Off on A New Name · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, O.Naming



Now that I walk down the street in my school uniform, back and forth four times a day, the girls don’t come to fetch me anymore.  It is not that they avoid me.  When I have time to hang out they don’t tell me to go away.  But I have very little time.

I am at school all day long, except on Sundays.  After my classmates go home, I stay and do my homework because our kerosene lamp, whose glass chimney quickly gets blackened by smoke, does not give enough light.

The schoolmistress, a kind and gentle nun, said that it would be useful for me to learn to read and write Chinese as my second language, instead of French.   French is still the diplomats’ language, which the European girls must learn, but Chinese will come in handier in my case.  I am the only European girl there who lives in Wanchai.  The front door of the school is on a road leading to the Peak.  No one else comes to school through the back.

I get my own Chinese tutor.  Miss Wu smiles easily.   First, she says, we have to invent a Chinese name for you.  She comes up with Meen Tau Lin.  Meen is the word for cotton.  Tau means wayLin just sounds like my name.   Now we start with the First Reader.

Miss Wu teaches me how to write with a brush.  You need a lot of practice, she says.  Saturday is a half day at school.  I think I can practice at home before it gets dark.  Children crowd around and watch me wield the brush and make graceful black characters.   In the morning, all my materials have disappeared.  From then on, I keep everything in my desk at school.

KeroLamp copy

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