Archive for July 6, 2012

Smiling vs. Smelling in China

I taught in Harbin, Heilongjiang China from 1986-88, northeast part of the country. Think cold! I’m going through old notes that I took and kept from my Chinese students.  I was asked to be a judge at a speech contest of Chinese university students at Ha Gong Da (H.I.T.), at the university where I taught 100s of students.  Fortunately I had this student and he gave me the copy of what he had so aptly memorized.  Too bad he hadn’t gotten feedback from foreigners about the pronunciation of the /ay/ sound in “smile” and the /E/ sound in “smell.”  I had all I could do to not bust out laughing at how often he mispronounced the simple word “smile” over and over again to sound like SMELL.  The whole time he WAS smiling oblivious to his error. Sometimes I thought he was doing it on purpose. Maybe it is still only funny to me, see what you think. (Believe me, the Chinese laughed aplenty at the mistakes I made with their four tones).


I like smiling. I like s. because I love life. I love the world I’m living in. I love the people who are studying and working with me. Smiles express my sincere love of the world.

I like s. I like s. because I know life is hard – very, very hard. There are days with sunshine, but there are also dark nights; we enjoy happiness, but we also experience sorrows; sometimes we gain success, sometimes we have failures. S. express my deep understanding of life.

A s. is a facial expression. It is so simple that even a baby can do it. Sometimes we find it so easy to s., when we are enjoying ourselves, when we are sharing happiness with our friends and when we are facing the sun of life.  But sometimes we find it very difficult to smile, even to pretend to smile, when are having troubles, when we are suffering from being misunderstood by others and when we suddenly find that we are not as clever as we think.

I really don’t know that I can s. at these times. But I’d like to try, because I like s.

I s. when I am in the sunshine of successes.  I s. for my optimistic view of the splendid future.

I also s. when I am in the darkness of frustration. I s. for my self-confident in coping with the pain.

I used to expect that I would never fail in my life. But when, I later entered a larger world, I realized that I was wrong there. I began to acknowledge that I have as many shortcomings as virtues, and it is natural for me to fail sometimes on my life road. So if I really fail, I will face it with a s. Yet, I am confident to succeed again.

I s. when I am in the company of my friends, classmates and roommates. I also s. when I am misunderstood by others.

We can’t avoid frictions between people, especially between students who are living and studying together on the campus. You may step on other’s feet or be stepped on by others in the dining room; you may offend your roommates or be offend by them; your meat may be another person’s poison. At these times, you may get angry, so may others. If you s., that will give others a feeling of understanding, or a symbol of apology, and that will be helpful to release the tension. I think this is much better than staring at each other or striking violently into each other’s faces.

Once a friend asked me, “You are always s, but do you get angry sometimes?” I s. and told him that I do get angry and sometimes very angry if I’m really annoyed. But I do not want others to be the targets of my letting off.  I know we are all human beings, we are equal.

S. are part of my life – I like s. a lot. I like to s. to show my love of the world, love of others. And I sincerely hope that I will be answered by other s. faces.”

I wonder where this Chinese person is 25 years later, I really like his philosophy of life. It certainly made me smile.

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