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Kung Fu Family

February, 2008
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IMG_9154  There are many ways to express the “Chineseness” of an expatriate family, and what this Canadian family has chosen is undoubtedly an impressive one.

  Guo Jing, Huang Rong, Guo Fu and Guo Xiang are the Chinese names of the father, mother and their two little girls, respectively Few Chinese would say they have never heard of those names because they are taken from a Kung Fu family in one of the most-read Chinese swordsman or Kung Fu novel series written by Hong Kong writer Louis Cha (Jin Yong).

  Guo Jing is a simple but kind-hearted man who finally, after a series of adventures, becomes one of the top Kong Fu tycoons in his time; while Huang Rong is a lovely, intelligent and versatile girl whose father is also a Kung Fu tycoon. Guo Fu and Guo Xiang are the Kung Fu couple’s two daughters. The story has been put on screen many times since it was written in the 1960s, which made the characters even more popular among Chinese people.

  “It was one of my husband’s Chinese colleagues who recommended the names,” Rosemary Lodge, the Canadian Huang Rong, laughed when she recalled how she got her Chinese name. Although the couple has not had a chance to read the novel or see any films about it, they were briefed by the Chinese colleague on how the story goes and what the characters are like.

  “We like the names very much because they are meaningful in Chinese culture and because they were given to us by our friend. When we tell Chinese people our names, they usually laugh at first, but then they quickly tell us these are very good names…they seem to think it is quite interesting that we have these special names,” said Rosemary.

  In August 2006, Rosemary came to Beijing from Canada together with her husband Glen Kugelstadt, a cameraman and editor for the Canadian  Broadcasting Corporation, when he was transferred to China. Rosemary is currently doing the weather programme at CCTV-9 (China Central Television’s English Channel).IMG_9116

  Although the couple has not studied martial arts, their two little daughters, Elena and Genevieve, are taking Kung Fu courses once a week at the Kempinski Club. There are so many good things about martial arts that the couple believe could give children confidence and make them feel strong and powerful, such as discipline, strength, coordination, and fitness.

  Are there expectations that the girls could become Kung Fu tycoons just like Huang Rong?

  “We have not really thought about any long-term goals. I think as long as they are learning something valuable and enjoying it they will continue,” the mother said.

  For the girls, who are now studying at the British School of Beijing in grades 1 and 4, it is probably a bit too early to have any long-term expectations for their future development. But Elena once told her mum that she does not want to work in an office when she grows up because she does not want to be all crammed up in a small space and just sit in front of the computer; while Genevieve said she wants to play the flute because she thinks it would be fun.

IMG_9114   “Being versatile is a good thing for children. My husband and I are trying to expose the girls to all kinds of things: sports, music, art, history, nature, travel and different cultures and languages so that as they get older they can figure out what they like or don’t like, and then concentrate on the things they really enjoy.”

  The couple does try to build up the versatility of their sweeties. Apart from their normal school work and Kung Fu courses, the girls have recently started to learn how to play piano. The couple hired a tutor for them and has just bought a piano so that the girls could practice a little bit in their apartment.

  When choosing a school in Beijing for the girls’ education, Glen went through a variety of schools before the family as a whole moved to Beijing.

  “Parents should try to find out as much as they can about different schools, and then identify a good fit for their kids,” Rosemary said. “Do not forget to take commuting time into consideration because when the traffic is bad it can make for a long day for the little ones.”

  The couple found out at last that they preferred a friendly and well structured atmosphere, which they believe the British School offers.

  “It is small, but the teachers are incredible…and typically, there are so many extra activities,” she said. The girls are attending choirs, playing musical instruments like cello and recorder, and playing sports like football.

  In addition, the homework is also well organized to make sure the parents have an idea of what the kids are doing after school, the mother added.

  In her opinion, life in an international school is a good experience for children, because it offers an international perspective and helps the children understand the world and other people. “This is absolutely what we want to give to the children.”

  She believes that a good international school should be able to incorporate the differences among children while highlighting the different backgrounds of the student, and making the children proud of where they come from.

  She also thinks that international schools should try to avoid growing too big too fast. There is certainly an Houhei Skating - Rosemary pushes girls on ice chairincreasing demand, but if the school gets too many students in a very short time, the communication among different students, as well as the sense of community, might suffer.

  Education is certainly not only about choosing a good school for the kids. Rosemary and Glen are volunteering as much as possible for school trips and activities. The school also invites parents to events like assemblies, presentations, concerts and celebrations.

  “We always seem to be there for one thing or another,” said Rosemary.

  When talking about her job, Rosemary seemed to be very enthusiastic - “I have learned a lot and really enjoy the people I work with. I never imagined that when I turned 40 I would start presenting the weather on TV in China! It has been fun and I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity.”

  For Glen, everything will become more and more focused on the Beijing Olympic Games with the start of the Games on August 8 approaching. During the Olympic period, he will most likely have to work around the clock without weekends.

  In addition to the CCTV job, Rosemary is also looking at other possibilities where she could take further advantage of her previous experiences in Canada. There she worked in communications and public relations for years, and also did a lot of training for things like presentation skills, team building, media relations and understanding one’s leadership style.

  Offering training courses to English-speaking Chinese on public speaking could be a good choice because Rosemary believes that as China continues growing and becoming globalized, there will be more Chinese people who are active on an international stage. “I think there is a good market for people to learn how to give effective presentations in English.”

  If possible, she would also like to work a bit with NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

  Like most expatriates, the family has a fairly enjoyable time in Beijing: the girls are quite busy with birthday parties, playing with their friends on weekends; the husband plays ice hockey in the Beijing Expat League and sometimes skates with the locals at Houhai (the famous bar and restaurant area).

  One thing in particular Rosemary herself likes to do a lot is bicycling on the streets of Beijing. “I can still remember the first time I rode my bike in Beijing. There were so many people, and everyone was riding along beside me so closely together! It was such a strange feeling at first, something I had never experienced before in Canada. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling and laughing the whole way!”

  But even more than those activities, the family likes to do things together: going out for dinners, seeing the sights around Beijing, watching movies, looking for new places to explore or trying something new.

  Those family get-togethers will become few and far between during the Beijing Olympic Games in August when Glen will be working 24/7. However, if possible the couple will take the girls to some of the events. “It should be an exciting time to be in Beijing!”

  To newly arrived expatriates, Rosemary’s advice would be that they should get to know other parents and ask lots of questions about various aspects of life in China.

IMG_2503   “Do not be intimidated. Take your kids out and get as much experience as you can… And do ask for help if needed.”

  Before the family moved to Beijing at the same time, Glen came on an exploration trip to find a place to live and a school for the girls. They got a lot of support from a colleague of Glen’s, who helped them for the first few weeks.

  “That made all the difference in the world. This was the first time we had someone to help us settle into a new place and it made the process very easy for us,” said Rosemary.

  She also suggests that expatriates should not always try to achieve a feeling of “being at home” when they are in Beijing.

  “Just try to enjoy the differences.”

  For Rosemary, a good thing about being an expat is that “you can make friends quickly,” because people tend to be very open when they live in an expat community.

  “I have made friends that will remain my friends for the rest of my life, and I have been here only for one and a half years.”

 

By Qin Chuan

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  1. April 25th, 2009 at 18:59 | #1

    really cool chinese name

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