Helping a Chinese in Shanghai

I’ve always been waiting for a chance to help a Chinese, just because so many Chinese had helped me here already with various matters, especially when it comes to reading and writing Chinese. But…I didn’t expect to get this chance in Shanghai and due to my English skills. Sitting outside at a Starbcks cafe, being approached by a Chinese usually means that they want to sell watches, handbags, or DVDs to you. So I am often very reserved talking to these guys.

Today a sturdy Chinese approached our table and asked me in broken, but well understandable English if I could help him. Reserved as usual I answered a bit bluntly “With what?” I am regretting that blunt tune now as the guy turned out to be very honest with a very simple request: He introduced himself as a sailor and asked me if I could copy some English text from a paper notebook into an official looking form within a ring binder. I had a few difficulties reading that handwriting in the notebook, but after deciphering it turned out to be a statement about that guy having finished some training items. And the form was part of a training log. I figured that he was unable to write roman letters, so I did as he asked (correcting the grammar a bit). Then he presented a second sheet of paper with 2 dates and place names and asked me to copy this into a passport-like document, which seems to have been a track-record of ship routes on which he had served. I have read somewhere that sailors have to keep such documents for official purposes. The line, into which I was ask to copy the dates and place names, was stamped already with a ship’s stamp and even signed. Just date and place was missing. Again, I did as he asked, now paying more attention to clean writing. The places I don’t know; and the country name I was ask to put in, “Arabian”, is also not exactly anything accurate. But I did not discuss this.

After this done, we got into talks with him: He was working on a huge (>300m) oil tanker, shipping 2 million barrels crude oil from Iran via Taiwan to somewhere I forgot. He showed us small pictures on his mobile and talked about becoming a ship officer, for which he is doing his last trainings. We didn’t exactly figure out if the one just now was his last training trip or not. He was the only Chinese on this ship, which was owned by a Japanese, the captain was from Pakistan, and the rest of the crew Indian as the ship was Indian-operated. He complained humorously about the Indian food 😉 which did not serve him too well. He once cooked Chinese for the crew and claimed they liked it. But otherwise Indian food day after day for four months.

After some 10-15 minutes talk he thanked us heartily and left happily. I do hope that my little writing will really help him, though we couldn’t exactly figure out why nobody else could have done this writing: The text in the paper notebook was written neatly. Why did the person writing into the notebook not write into the official documents directly? Well…maybe the sailor did not have his training log book with him, fine. But what’s about this passport-like thing? That had the ship’s stamp and captain’s signature already… Well, I don’t know. I made him happy by writing a few English words. Though his English was broken it was understandable, and his vocabulary was not too bad, though certainly focusing on shipping terms. He obviously had have lots of chances of talking English as he was not afraid at all talking to us and even happily extended his story. I am really wondering how he learned English without being able to write roman letters…I’ll probably never figure out.

Categories: Shanghai

Originally Created: 05/16/2007 11:13:23 AM
Last Edited: 05/16/2007