It is curious the things one notices or finds striking upon homecoming after an extended sojourn abroad. Things that seemed nondescript or of no account before suddenly take on a new aura of incongruity and strangeness. Probably what long-term missionaries feel like.
The one thing that struck me most upon returning to Sydney after a year in China was housing. I had formerly remarked upon the fact that China does not appear to have a recognisable suburbia. Almost no one lives in houses. Flats are au courant and even in the country, people’s dwellings seem to be generally grouped immediately adjacent to each other with the farmland surrounding this small cluster of houses on every side, presumably an inheritance of the communes of former times.
Back in Sydney, my youngest brother is getting married later this year, has bought a reasonably-sized block of land and is building a house on it. The day I returned from China, he and his fiancee took me to see it.
I was surprised by my reaction. My first thought upon seeing the half-finished house was, ‘This is too much land for just two people.’ My second thought was, ‘Why do Australians complain about immigration when there are couples living on quarter-acre blocks?’ These are not necessarily rational responses, you understand. Immigration, I realise, is a complicated issue and entails more than just finding sufficient housing for people. Still, I was conscious for a brief and unexpected moment of how much we Australians take for granted. And, by the same token, how much things could easily (and indeed might have to) change in the future.
For one year now, I have not blogged. The main reason was that my old blog, being on Blogger, is blocked on the mainland. I had heretofore resigned myself to this, though the thought had occurred to me from time to time to start a new one somewhere else. But always the thought was not of sufficient fertility to flower into action, and it wasn’t until I came back to Australia briefly for the holidays (where I am presently) that the pressure from others and from my own impulse to write became overwhelming. So I bend over the keyboard and type.
I’m conscious that this blog will differ in some ways from my last. In large part, that is because of where I find myself these days (i.e. teaching at a university in mainland China). It is also because of the intended audience. On more than one occasion, students have opined that they have little contact with me outside the classroom (i.e. online) given my technophobic tendency to rarely use QQ (the Chinese answer to Facebook) or Sina miniblog (which, in fairness, I have used a couple of times, but found rather frustrating since it allows barely more than a paragraph’s worth of text per post). Accordingly, for the benefit of my students, I plan to use both English and Chinese on this blog, to the extent that my rudimentary Chinese will allow. Hopefully, this approach will improve both the students’ English and my Chinese.
In any case, whether you are a refugee from my old and now long-dormant blog or a new reader, welcome to Hwæt!
大家好，欢迎到Hwæt! 不管你是学生，老师 还是其他职业，欢迎光临。实际上，这是我的第二个博克。第一的可惜被封鎖在中国，我一直都在想从写一个新博克, 但只是想而已 我都没实施它. 不过现在我决定又一次开始写。这个博克的意图主要是为了我的学生和朋友在湖北中医药大学。你们通场告诉我，‘请用QQ，用miniblog’ 但是我对这些应用程式和网页使用不太习惯。尽管如此，我很喜欢写。对这样的博克比QQ和Miniblog我习惯，那么我用这样的。我打算在这个博克上一边用英文一边用中文；这样一来可以帮助学生进步英文，我也可以通过它來进步我的中文。
可能我应该说明一下这个博克的篇名。Hwæt 是一个古典的词，从千年以前的英语。这个词是Beowulf (很著名的古典英语的诗）的第一词。它的意思是‘请注意‘，‘奥’，‘为什么’，‘何故’或者‘勇敢’。明显的，很有意思的词。我希望这个博克也是。