Saturday, February 20, 2016

Little Pear

The Chinese restaurant around the corner, the oldest in town, caught fire last year and has been boarded up since. It makes the little strip mall look even more desolate: the only shops remaining are a drug store, two barber shops, a shop for hearing devices and a fast food joint. The view of a defunct shopping street has become all too common in a country which is being slowly pulled down by a bankrupt Europe.

Looking over your shoulder seems to be one of the symptoms of getting old, as there is more to see in the past than in the future. Walking by the restaurant revived an old memory: the story of Little Pear.

Little Pear, or 'Kleine Sjang' as the Dutch translation of the classic by Eleanor Frances Lattimore was titled, has always remained with me as the first book I had selected all by myself from the library. I was proud that I could easily read the whopping 343 pages, which is quite a feat for a six-year old, but, above all, it was a revelation for me to discover how a book could make me travel to another space and time. Little Pear introduced me to China, with its colourful kites, mysterious magicians and complicated script,

I became intrigued by the idea of writing my own name in Chinese, and was excited to learn that the Chinese restaurant had its name 'Azië' painted on its window. How convenient! I had already collected three out of four characters, and all I needed was a Chinese 'k'. Not long after, a second Chinese restaurant opened: 'De Lange Muur', and I was utterly disappointed to learn it did not exactly help me to solve my problem.

To be honest, it took me decades to realise the silliness of my attempts to spell out my name in Chinese. If there anyone Chinese out there who can translate my name, which means 'ĺaugher', to Chinese, I am definitely interested.