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楼主: 老姚

[中学] A Journey to the West: from China to Cambridge and Stanford.

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布衣

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 楼主| 发表于 2018-8-20 04:50:05 | 显示全部楼层
Saturday, 15 September 2001, Language School Year, Warminster, England
My hometown, Shijiazhuang, changed a lot during the fifteen years I lived there. Farmland and fields gave way to bungalows, and bungalows late on were replaced by low rise, low rise by mid-rise and mid-rise by high rise residential towers. Dirt roads got paved and repaved before having overpasses built on top; and the tallest building in my area changed from the office building of the diary company next to my primary school to that new shopping centre, then to the new hotel building and then started to change so frequently that I lost count. Watching that happen gave me an expectation what UK, one of the richest countries in the world, would be like. Travelling to Beijing to catch the flight and seeing how far ahead Beijing was in the path of modernization compared to Shijiazhuang only re-affirmed that expectation. Beijing, judged by the intensity and height of its buildings, was probably a decade ahead of Shijiazhuang. Wasn’t UK at least a century ahead of Beijing? It must be an amazing scene.
If England was a century ahead of Beijing, then time must had gone backward here somehow. England, if anything, was a lot like Shijiazhuang, and that was the Shijiazhuang when I was small. On the way from Heathrow to Warminster where my school was, I saw endless field of greens, but none of the skyscrapers or factory complex. Most houses were two-storey high and looked ancient; there were a few mid rises here and there, but all had seen better days. If that office building from the diary company from my childhood was here today, it would have retained its title as the highest building, at least amongst the ones I saw that day. And just as in Shijiazhuang a decade earlier, there were stacks of straws in the farmlands next to the highway. But given there were made into cute shapes of humans, tractors, hippos and caterpillars etc, I imagined the farmers here probably wouldn’t be too happy if I jumped out of the car and went to burn them. They were missing a lot of fun.
Two hours into the journey, the taxi driver pulled over in the middle of nowhere, pointed at a pile of stone enthusiastically and tried to tell me something. I didn’t understand a single word of what he was saying but this surely was not the school… or was it? Was it possible that the advanced form of civilization was not in the type of futuristic society I saw in Sci-Fi movies but in a traditional village with 2 storey houses and school under a pile of stones?   After so much effort of building those high buildings and factories in China, were we going to tear them all down again later so that we could be as rich as the British? Whatever the answer to that questions was, I was very glad when the driver started the car again and continued the journey. And when we finally arrived at my school in Warminster shortly afterwards, the two-storey building it was in looked to me the most beautiful house in England. Anything other than a pile of stones would do by now.
Score: Me: 1, English: 2
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布衣

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 楼主| 发表于 2018-8-24 07:01:59 | 显示全部楼层
Sunday, 16 September 2001, Language School Year, Warminster, England

I met our housemistress for the first time this evening when she came back from her weekend leave. Everyone in the boarding house was delighted to see her and it was easy to see why: her kindness filled the way she walked, talked, smiled and even the way she handed out the treats she got for everyone from her trip.

While I became a fan of hers since that very first day, I was never sure what her first impression of mine was. When she saw there were a couple of new faces in the house, she warmly greeted us and invited us to her study for a chat. She sat us down and poured us a glass of water each from a big bottle. I was so excited to see some water—since I finished the bottled water I bought at Heathrow, I had not found anything to drink. My room only had some furniture and I didn’t find any kitchen in the house neither. So I took a large sip…

…and regretted immediately. The transparent liquid was definitely not water as it jumped around in my mouth like explosives. Why was everything in this country so weird? We were in 21st century but people here still lived in houses that built with stones. Without the electricity, I would have thought I had travelled back in time. Or maybe I had already, otherwise, why was there no air conditioning or even a fan in the house at all? The last time I had a summer like that must be 10 years ago. Even back then, at least I could open the window and also have a paper fan, but now I had none. Why would the windows here could only be lifted up by a few centimetres? Did someone already know we would be so disappointed and might try to escape? But the school was in a tiny village and there was absolutely nothing outside, no public transport, no taxi or even pedestrians. How far could we go even if we jumped out of the window? And now even the water here tasted like medicine. Oh my God, what have I put myself into and why did I send myself here? This was literally a prison and that was even before any class began.

I had to apply my best effort not to spit the “water” out. My effort clearly showed itself and our housemistress asked concernedly: “Do you not like sparkling water? Would you like some still?” Whatever “Still” was, I had no desire to try, there were enough for me to digest already. Later that day, I was finally saved when I went to find somewhere to get rid of the rest of the sparkling water. I had the genius thought of tasting the tap water in the toilet. At last, I found something that was normal here in England. But just as I drank the water like there was no tomorrow, one boy asked puzzledly, “Hi, are you from somewhere that had no water to drink?”
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