This morning, brought out a calligraphy brush pen she had recently acquired. She takes a moment to write her Chinese name, ??? Bai Li Ya, and the characters are utterly beautiful. Suddenly, my own memories of hours spent practicing calligraphy in Japan came rushing forth and I grabbed the pen from her and wrote my Chinese name ???, Ben Jie Ming. Hmmm, not bad, but obviously out of practice. I decided to do my favorite character from my erstwhile Japan days, when I seemed to have so much more time to devote to calligraphy, the character for love, ? ai. Ah, now that’s better!

then wrote out Ellie’s Chinese name, ?? Ai Li, which has the character ? ai in it. ?This brings to light that in the PRC, there is a fundamental difference between the way I wrote ai and the way that ai is written with the simplified characters used in mainland China. Blysse was watching us and waiting for her turn with the “brush” and I said to her, “Isn’t it ironic that when they simplified the character for love, they took the heart out it?” , ever on the lookout for conspiracies replies, “That isn’t ironic at all!” They had taken out the entire radical representing heart/mind ? xin and made a slight adjustment to the remaining radical and replaced it with the radical representing friend ? you instead. A different kind of love, perhaps, but I have to hand it to them for meeting the objective of reducing stroke count while maintaining as close to the original meaning as possible. My kids are learning the simplified characters at school here, and have occasionally encountered the traditional versus simplified characters debate before, but this seemed to drive the point home.

Generally, I approve of the notion of simplified characters, because they do require much fewer strokes, and therefore save a lot of time and effort over time. On the other hand, as I learned the Japanese version of Chinese characters first, which were based on the traditional characters, and spent a year in Taiwan, which still uses traditional characters, I appreciate that it is easier to see how and why a character came to mean what it does if you have all of the components in place, although this can lead to some mighty complex characters. I’ve met some people here in the mainland who are very disapproving of the practice, usually people who love the traditional Chinese ways and see the practice of simplified characters as a slight on ancient traditions. I even know a few who blog in traditional characters!

I went out for the day and when I came back, I saw that both Blysse and Salomae had been practicing the traditional character for “ai”, with the heart back in love. Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

Today we all woke to find the world transformed into a winter wonderland! Blysse and Ellie had to go to school on Saturday as well as Sunday morning tomorrow so that they can have the 1st through the 3rd off. (You can read more about my feelings on this matter here.) As soon as they got home though, we had a blast! Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

You’d think I’d have resigned myself by now. After all, my daughter has already made it through two years in the Chinese school system, albeit in an , and is now in the third grade. However, each time it happens, I find the same sense of outrage rising unbidden and the complaints spew forth. I’m refering to the unique Chinese custom of tagging extra days off on to a long holiday and then making up for it by adding a couple of extra ones to the next week. The result of which, and the source of my unrelenting ire, is school on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the regular school week for a 7 day non-stop run, which usually, in my case at least, manages to undo any relaxation I might have gained from the extra two days they borrowed in the first place.

This isn’t just for school. Many people adhere to this same schedule for work. You see, there are only so many days off to go around and everything must be planned out to the nth degree so why not require mandatory holiday schedules as well?

Now, I’m generally a pretty flexible guy. I’ve spent the greater portion of my adult life living abroad and I’m quick to criticize those who constantly complain about the fact that their current host country is not like the homeland they left. So, ever the introspective one, I decided to take a look at why this rankles me so. Many Chinese people take this stoically, so why not me?

Why is it that working on a weekend, or seemingly worse, going to school on a weekend is so repugnant to me? Could it be that being born and raised in the US, which was primarily founded on conservative Judeo-Christian values has left me with a sense that I have a “right” to my “Sabbath?” Never mind that I don’t follow any Sabbath day rituals currently. I rememberwhen I was growing up in the 60s and 70s that nothing was open on Sunday. Maybe some restaurants, and a few rebel gas stations, but few others. Then, little by little, people started breaking away from the tradition until now nearly everything is open on Sunday. You can still see the legacy reflected in different hours and, if they are lucky, special pay for those working.

Well, there’s certainly no Sabbath here. Plenty of people work on Sunday as though it were just any day but most Chinese people I talk to agree that weekends are theirs. Some even went so far as to say they don’t really like the current arrangement, but what could they do?

I could follow the advice of a coffee shop acquaintance of mine, journalist , and just let my kids stay home those days. Unfortunately, that won’t wash too well with my mother-in-law who watches over the kids education like a hawk.

So, I guess I’ll just suck it up. Until, the next time it happens, that is! Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark