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Huanying guanglin

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo May 05,2017 - 10:21 PM

RUFFOLOTaipei – I’m home.

We landed at 9:00 p.m. in the landwhere Mandarin Chinese is spoken and I found myself comfortably talking to locals and taxi drivers.

I love this language.

It has a familiar ring and tugs my heartstrings in sound and motion that have always allowed to get in touch with my core.

Back in 2010, I became part of the Gokongwei Brothers China Scholarship program where 40 – and then 37 of us – studied Chinese Language with lectures on politics, culture and economics at the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo De Manila University and Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

That was actually the reason why I left my full-time job as a business and economics reporter of Cebu Daily News to pursue my passion in learning languages.

One year of learning a new language and culture taught me patience and hard work – and there is no substitute to these values.

Being equipped with a new language capability has helped me navigate the competitive world of social development and international affairs.

It was my love for Mandarin Chinese that led me to Jeff and back to China (Guangzhou) when I got married and had children.

Being in Taipei is like going home to a place you’ve never been. And that is largely because of this language; this language that I haven’t spoken in the last three years but feels like second nature.

I love hearing people screaming in Chinese, the greasy smell of stinky tofu, the wonderful singsong that fills the air whenever I’m in the mall.

Language has the ability to connect you to people, cultures and even civilizations.

In learning Mandarin Chinese, I got to know Chinese culture in a deeper sense.

Dongxi (the word for “thing”) literally means “east” and “west” and my Chinese professor said the root of this word signifies the manner by which people travel to buy things in the olden times. “They traveled from east to west,” said the professor.

I will not dare touch on the discussion on Taiwan and mainland China but suffice it is to say that these wonderful places are close to my heart – and my belly.

Just ask any person who has visited Taipei’s night markets and China’s myriad of dimsum spots and tea houses.

The xiaolongbao, commonly known as soup dumplings, is a must-try whether you go to Taiwan or China.

My mother was perplexed when I decided to quit my job to learn a new language.

I never could quite understood it, but I just knew then that I was interested in learning Mandarin Chinese even when I don’t have a single drop of Chinese blood running in my veins.

Or so I thought.

In a recent trip to Singapore – another country with a rich Chinese culture – I talked to an old man while eating at a hawker’s center.

He told me that I am Chinese and that he could feel it.

He said he could even hear it in my accent.

“There’s a mountain called Latou shan in some province in China. You should go there to find yourself and your clan,” he said.

It was like a scene from a Jackie Chan movie because when I came back to the same spot after I got water to quench my thirst, the old man was not there anymore.

I talked to some people when I came back from that trip.

Nellie Chiu, past president of Zonta Club of Cebu I, told me it is really possible that I have Chinese blood because I feel strongly about the culture.

My research brought me to a list of Filipino-Chinese names in Cebu with “Lato” as a last name.

Looks like I don’t need to go back to China to find myself or my clan.

Back here in Taipei, Jeff was giving the driver directions on how to get to our hotel. “Yi zhi zou”, said Jeff to the driver. That means “Just go straight”, one of the few phrases that my husband learned from me.

I stepped out of the taxi and was greeted by the receptionist, “Huanying guanglin ni de jia.”
Yes, welcome to my home indeed.

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TAGS: home, Taipei

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