Sunday, May 04, 2008

My uncle says your laundry is ready

On the agenda after our trip to Metro was a mixer with the current Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business students (CKGSB) that took place in a building adjacent to the hotel called appropriately enough, the White House.

The room itself was kind of funky with furniture that didn't quite fit and was hard to move around but the company was good. CKGSB is unique from many other Chinese business programs in two ways, first, it is a one-year intensive program and second, all of the classes are taught in English. The CK students who attended were eager to engage us about our backgrounds and expertise in the U.S. I think they were also interested in engaging with native English speakers.

Like my CK peers I wanted to practice my language skills -- but this meant speaking in Mandarin. I did my best to have cross-language conversations with a couple of students and it was a great exercise. Obviously, their English skills were better than my Chinese but I think my language skills were beginning to improve (the Tiger beer could not have hurt). A lot of the students were applying to an exchange program to Berkeley and were very excited about the prospects of studying in the U.S.

One of the best parts of the evening was meeting a student named Iris who had spent a lot of time in Guangdong, the province that my family is from. I was really interested in her background and experience as a tour guide as she was one of the few CK students who had been to the U.S. When she discovered that I spoke Cantonese we started our own sidebar conversation.

One of the gems was her assertion that all the people from my home village of Toishan are laundrymen. She asked me in a joking tone if my uncle had finished her laundry. She killed me with that comment as my grandfather did in fact own a laundry in San Francisco and that I have several uncles who made a living working as laundrymen. I told her that her laundry was ready for pickup and that we had lightly starched her shirts just like she requested. :)

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