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My neighbour doesn’t speak English, but her kindness needs no translation

My doorbell rings at 11 a.m. On the step, I find an elderly Chinese lady; she is small and slight, and she's holding the hand of a little boy. In her other hand, she holds a paper carrier bag. The boy shrinks back as my yellow Labrador tries enthusiastically to greet him.

上午11点,门铃响了。门口站着一位上了年纪的中国女士,她身材瘦小而单薄,一只手牵着一个小男孩,另一只手提着一个纸袋。我的金色拉布拉多热情地要扑上去迎接,小男孩瑟缩着往后退了退。

I know this lady. It is by no means her first visit. She is the little boy's grandmother, and her daughter bought the house next door last October. It is one of several large, heritage-style houses that have replaced smaller, older homes in my block over the past couple of years – part of the madness that has gripped the Vancouver housing market.

我认识这位老太太,这可不是她第一次到访了。她是这个小男孩的外婆,她的女儿去年10月买下了隔壁的房子,是那种很大的古典风格建筑。在过去几年里,这种大房子开始渐渐取代了我这条街区上的老旧小屋,这也算是扼住温哥华房地产市场的疯狂潮流之一。

At first, the house seemed to tower over my small, yellow, 1920s bungalow, but I have become used to it over the two or three years since it was built.

一开始,我总觉那高大豪宅像是居高临下地压迫着自己这间上世纪20年代建的矮小黄色平房。不过,在新房建了两三年后,我也渐渐习惯了。

My visitor's daughter, Nicole (who speaks fluent English), is currently in Shanghai, but her parents are in the house for the summer with the little boy. Nicole has apparently told her mother that I am having heart surgery shortly, and the result is that her mother has decided I need to be supplied with meals.

老太太的女儿,Nicole,说一口流利英语,目前在上海,但她的父母这个暑期都住在这边,陪伴小外孙。Nicole显然告诉了她的母亲,我马上要接受心脏手术了。结果就是,老太太觉得我需要有人送饭。

I know what is inside the paper carrier bag – a Thermos with hot soup and a stainless-steel container with a meal of rice, vegetables and either chicken, meat or shrimp, sometimes with a kind of pancake. This has become an almost-daily occurrence. It is the ultimate home-delivery service.

我知道那个纸袋里装的是什么——一个盛着热汤的保温杯和一个不锈钢容器,里面有米饭,蔬菜,鸡肉、猪肉或虾,有时还配着煎饼。这几乎已是每天的日常,堪比终极版外卖服务。

Communication between my benefactor and me is somewhat handicapped by the fact that she doesn't speak English and all I can say in Mandarin is hello. Once, she brought an iPad as well as the food. She pointed to the screen, which displayed a message from her daughter telling me that her mother wanted to know if the food was all right and was anxious to know that it wasn't too salty for me. I am not used to iPads and was unable to find the keypad, so the lady indicated I should go with her to her house. Once there, she handed the iPad to her husband and almost immediately I found myself looking at Nicole in Shanghai and discussing her mother's cooking and the fact I have to be careful about my salt intake.

我的恩人和我交流起来并不容易,因为她不会说英语,而我能说的中文只有"你好"。有一次,她送饭的时候带来一个iPad。她指着屏幕,上面是一条她女儿的留言,告诉我她的妈妈想知道食物是否合意,她很担心会不会太咸。我不太会用iPad,找不到键盘,老太太示意我随她去家里。到了家,她把iPad递给老伴,很快,我就和上海的Nicole视频聊起天来,讨论着她母亲的厨艺。我告诉她我确实要注意盐的摄入。

"Your mother just can't be bringing me meals like this all the time," I protested. "I can hardly reciprocate by cooking something from my native land, like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding."

"你的母亲不能一直这样给我送饭,"我抗议道。"我都没办法做烤牛肉和约克郡布丁之类的家乡菜回报她。"

"Oh, no," Nicole said. "She doesn't like Western food. Don't worry about it; she has to cook for the three of them anyway, and she wants to do it."

"哦,千万别,"Nicole说,"她不喜欢西餐。别在意,反正她要做三个人的饭,她很乐意的。"

"Can you at least tell me her name?" I asked.

"那你至少能告诉我她的名字吧?"我问。

Nicole replied that I would never be able to pronounce her mother's first name, so it would be fine to use her surname. I'll call her Wing for the purposes of this tale.

Nicole说,我肯定念不出她母亲的名,所以用姓称呼她就行了。所以下文中,我会称她为"温"。

At first, I would wash and return the empty containers next door, but Wing was obviously concerned to find me at her front door. I think she believes I am too fragile to be making this effort, so despite my attempts to dispel this notion, she insisted on holding me firmly by the arm and escorting me right to my own front door. I was quite concerned about this because I tend to tower over her, and if I were to fall I think I would bring her down with me.

起初,我吃完后会洗干净容器还回隔壁,但温看到我出现在她家门口总是特别担心。大概她觉得我太虚弱,无力走动。她总要紧紧扶着我的胳臂,送我回家门口。我也挺担心的,因为我比她高大,如果我摔倒了,可能会带她一块儿摔倒。

Wing has now had her daughter tell me by e-mail that I should leave the empty dishes on the arm of my wooden lawn chair on the front porch. Wing tried originally to suggest this to me with the help of gestures, but I was unable to understand.

温于是找她的女儿给我写邮件,让我把空盘子放在门廊里的木躺椅扶手上。温打着各种手势想告诉我这个建议来着,但我当时没弄懂。

Once, I delayed returning the containers, but even without the Thermos Wing was undaunted and arrived at my door moving slowly and carefully carrying an open bowl of hot soup. Another morning, when the doorbell rang, I grabbed Wing's dishes from the kitchen counter and found myself in the process of offering them to a rather puzzled delivery man from Greyhound Canada.

有一次,我没能及时把容器还回去。然而,没有保温瓶,也难不倒温,她小心翼翼端着一碗热汤,慢慢走着,把汤送到我门前。后来一天早上,门铃响时,我急匆匆从厨房台子上抓起温的饭盒,结果一开门,对面却是加拿大灰狗的快递员,一脸茫然地看着我递给他的饭盒。

Recently, one of my grandchildren kicked a ball around with the small grandson (who is 3) in our front yard, while the grandmothers looked on and gave the ball a little kick whenever it came our way. He does not speak English either, but judging by the smile that played around the corners of his mouth, he enjoyed the game.

近来,我的一个孙子和她3岁的小外孙会在我们的前院玩球,我们两个奶奶就在一旁看着,如果球滚到我们身边,我们就给孩子们轻轻地踢回去。温的小外孙也不会说英语,但从他嘴角的微笑可以看得出来,他很喜欢这个游戏。

The tenant in my basement suite is a university student who apparently speaks Mandarin quite well, so with her help and that of a friend of Nicole, I have found out that Wing is 68 – 13 years younger than I am – and that she lived through the Cultural Revolution, forced to work in the fields instead of going to university. For my part, I was raised in wartime Britain.

我家地下室的租客是个大学生,汉语特别好。所以在她和Nicole朋友的帮助下,我得知温68岁了——比我小13岁——她经历过文化大革命,当年被迫下乡,没能上大学。而我,成长于战争年代的英国。

So here we are, two grandmothers a world away from where we were raised, neither of us able to speak the other's language but communicating one way or another (with some help from technology). The doorbell keeps ringing and there is the familiar brown paper carrier bag, handed smilingly to me by Wing.

就这样,我们两个分别生长于不同国家的老奶奶最终却结缘于此。我们彼此都不会讲对方的语言,但(在科技的帮助下)我们总能想着法子交流一二。门铃每天依旧会响起,依旧是那个熟悉的棕色纸袋,温微笑着把它递给我。

I was able to have translated to her my comment that there is no way I can allow her to go back to China next month. She seemed very amused. I am working on some more Mandarin words – it's the least I can do after such a display of kindness.

我把自己的想法翻译出来告诉她:我绝不让她下个月就回中国去。她好像被逗乐了。我正在努力多学几个汉语词——在她巨大的善意面前,这是我能做的最起码的事。

"Thank you" is, of course, the first one. Somehow, it seems inadequate.

"谢谢"当然是我学的第一个词。但我总觉得它太不足以表达我的感激。

Source: China Daily

2016-09-30

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