Friday, December 21, 2007

Geography

An acquaintance (whose nationality and ethnicity may not be revealed under UAE law) dined several times a week at a 'Chinese' restaurant in Dubai.

I believe (no accurate statistics are available) that the majority of the staff at 'Chinese' restaurants in the UAE were trained at a top 'Chinese' cookery school in Mumbai. My guess is that the second largest training school for the staff of Dubai 'Chinese' restaurants is located somewhere in Manila.

I suspect my acquaintance could recognize a young lady from the sub-Continent, but he assumed that the winsome young lady who stood behind the counter at his favourite 'Chinese' restaurant must be from China.

He struggled to find a Chinese language Christmas card. Failing, he purchased a blank card and, with some help, managed to write, 'Happy New Year and Merry Christmas' using the older Wade-Giles transliteration, still used in Taiwan, but abandoned in China for the newer pinyin.

I know he spent quite a lot of time and effort on the card.

However, the young lady is a Philippina, and her understanding of Chinese is at the same level as that of my acquaintance. Had she been from mainland China, she would have been unable to read Wade-Giles (and probably pinyin, which is mainly for the waiguaren visiting China).

While I can't give the nationality of my acquaintance, I think it's safe to say that he is Oriental, though that word has little meaning in English. Some English speakers accept that the concept of the Orient was first developed by the Greeks, and use the Greek meaning of the word Orient, which is everything East of the Hellespont. Most British I've known use the word Orient to mean everything East of Calais. Americans, when they refer to the Orient, only mean far East Asia.

Still, it's refreshing to know that the knowledge of geography of my Oriental acquaintance is at parity with that of most English speakers.

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