全球中国连接大会(续) / The Global China Connection Conference (…continued)

全球中国联接大会(续)

步行穿过纽约滨州火车站的时候,我有一种时光倒流的幻觉。那里的建筑设施基本没变,气氛也一如往昔。跟很多大城市一样,火车站是座老建筑——和中国超级现代的高铁车站不可同日而语。车站里人来人往,他们来自各行各业、各个社会阶层;也有一些流浪汉和醉鬼以车站为家。

我花了33美元买了张往返票,单程需要90分钟。我在大门口等待列车长的登车广播。上车后,我选了靠西侧的窗口坐下。刹那间,我又有点儿恍惚了——这感觉简直跟我上学时一模一样,只不过那是在30年前罢了。

我很好奇将要看到哪些变化,又有哪些还保留着原貌。想到未来(也就是今天)在写博客的时候肯定要参考一下笔记和残余印象,于是我掏出了笔记本。火车驶出滨州站,向新泽西北部驶去,我的目光和精力一直胶着在窗外的景色上。

坐火车和坐飞机、汽车不同,会产生有趣的视觉差,让人感觉靠近铁轨的物体掠过车窗的速度要比远处的物体快。

坐火车时,这种错觉比坐汽车时感觉更明显,因为火车的铁轨比高速公路窄得多,所以铁路两边的树木、灯杆、建筑物等离火车车窗的距离要比高速公路旁的东西离汽车车窗近得多。所以坐火车和坐汽车相比,这种视觉差就被放大了很多倍。

这种现象与眼球的工作原理有关,因为无论外部物体是远是近,火车经过它的速度当然是一样的,但透视效果却不尽相同。

反映到我们如何看待事物的角度上就很有意思。一路走来我们都会有一些偏见,无疑会掺杂到对事物观察的解读中。也许这就是对火车车窗视觉差作出的一种推论。

我坐在那儿,深深地沉醉在新泽西州北部的风景中:城市和乡村错落分布,偶见人烟,最后化作一派乡村和农业景象。除了比记忆中的过去多了些废弃工厂的遗骸,一切似乎都没有大的改变。

伟大的特伦顿市口号依旧:“特伦顿制造,世界需要。”特伦顿曾是全球最大的幸运饼产地,产品广泛供应美国的中餐厅,但在中国却一文不名,这让很多美国人都感到惊讶。

渐渐的,我的耳朵也随着眼睛醒了过来。那天大清早为了赶火车,我只喝了一杯咖啡。我开始有种奇怪的感觉,注意力从紧盯窗外有点儿转移到留心车内的情况。

有一种声音让我似曾相识,同时又似乎格格不入。我意识到同车乘客中有很多人在说中文。

我抬头一看,发现坐在对面的两位年轻女士正在用普通话聊天,她们后面还坐着至少10到12位年轻人,都衣冠楚楚,也说着汉语。一时间,我感到深度迷失。

太让人震惊了。也许车窗外的一切都没有改变,但车厢内却已物是人非。我不记得上学时坐这趟火车听见过有人讲中文,哪怕不是普通话。粤语或者台山话,也许。那年月周围就没有很多中国人,特别是说普通话的中国人,在纽约唐人街以外。

上帝啊,我想,中国人真的接管全世界了,连新泽西都算在内!

我有点儿左右为难。我本能地想对旁边两位大学生年龄的姑娘说声“哈喽”,然后用中文作些友善的交谈。她俩还聊着天,完全没有意识到也不可能猜到我能听懂她们说的话。

可我又一想,在这种情况下开始对话好像有点唐突。我一般坐火车或坐飞机是不会和走道另一边的陌生乘客说话的,况且她们正忙着彼此聊天。那还有什么意思啊?于是我决定自己忙自己的。(我暗自思忖,假如她们两个有人说出“坐在过道那边的老头儿”之类的话,我一定会改变主意;但自始至终都没有发生这种情况。)我继续盯着窗外。

到普林斯顿时,所有年轻的中国旅客都下了车,我这才明白他们很多都是来参加“全球中国联接”大会的代表。其中最大的代表团来自于清华大学。

普林斯顿大学的校园很美,除了许多新建筑外,看上去是如此的熟悉。“全球中国联接”派代表到车站接我,我们踩着校园的积雪,前往伍德洛威尔逊学院。

当我到达会议厅时,意外地发现200多名代表中大多数都是中国学生,很多还来自中国内地。他们的英语很流利,表现得自信而成熟。而那些非中国学生的中文也很好。真是一群生机勃勃的年轻人。

会议的组织非常有序—全部通过大学生志愿者的辛苦努力而完成,令人印象深刻。

我觉得自己讲得挺不错。有兴趣观看视频的读者可以点击下面的链接:

天时地利:开拓事业,莫忘中国 – 1

天时地利:开拓事业,莫忘中国 – 2

天时地利:开拓事业,莫忘中国 – 3

天时地利:开拓事业,莫忘中国 – 4

我对组织者的工作提出了赞扬,不仅因为他们成功地举办了此次会议,还因为他们帮助彼此更好地了解到世界与中国发展之间的关系,以便规划出有回报、有产出的职业道路。

当晚在返回纽约的火车上,我满脑子想的都是从我上学起到现在,中国是如何令人瞩目地融入进世界、特别是美国。这是一个重大的进步,会对未来产生积极的影响。

The Global China Connection Conference (…continued)

As I walked through New York’s Penn Station I had a sense of déjà vu. The physical structure of the place hasn’t changed much, nor has the atmosphere. Like most big city train stations — not including China’s super modern new high speed rail stations — it’s an old building, with people from every walk of life and stratum of society on the move through it, including some street sleepers and drunks who are not on the move.

I paid the US$33 for my round trip train ticket for the 90-minute (each way) journey, and waited at the gate for the train conductor’s boarding call. Once on board, I chose a window seat on the side of the train car facing west. Once again a sense of déjà vu — this train trip was a familiar one in my school days, but that was more than 30 years ago.

I was curious to see what had changed, and what had not. I had my notebook out, thinking ahead to today, anticipating that I would draw on my notes and impressions when writing this blog post. My eyes and attention were glued to the view outside the train as we pulled out of Penn Station and headed south into northern New Jersey.

One interesting difference between train travel and air or automobile travel is the optical illusion which makes it look as if outside objects closer to the train tracks are whooshing past you at a faster pace than objects located further away from the tracks.

This illusion is more pronounced from a train window rather than a car window because train tracks are much narrower than highways, so trees, lamp posts, fences, buildings, etc. are much closer to the train’s window than they are to a car window on a typical highway. As a result this optical illusion is amplified while riding in a train versus in a car.

This phenomenon is due to the way our eyes work, because of course the train is passing by all external objects or structures at the same speed, whether they are near or far from the tracks. But the perceived effect is quite different.

It’s interesting to reflect on how we perceive things in general. We all have certain biases and prejudices we have acquired along the way, and no doubt these tend to filter the way we interpret and understand what we observe. Perhaps this is a kind of corollary to the optical illusion effect which is so obvious from a train window.

There I sat, deeply absorbed in the northern New Jersey landscape, mixed urban and suburban, interspersed with industrial, and eventually more rural and some agricultural scenes. Other than more derelict factory buildings than I remember from times past, nothing seemed to me to have changed that much.

The great city of Trenton still proclaims its motto: “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.” Trenton was once the home of the world’s largest maker of fortune cookies, very widely served in Chinese restaurants in America yet unknown in China, a fact which surprises most Americans.

Gradually my ears caught up with my eyes in being awake. In the early morning rush to the train, I’d only had time for one cup of coffee. I began to experience a very strange sensation, as my attention shifted a bit from staring out the window to noticing what was going on inside of the train car.

There was a sound which gave me a familiar feeling, which at the same time seemed very out of place. I realized that many of my fellow passengers were speaking Chinese.

I looked up, and opposite me were two young women chatting away in Putonghua. Beyond and behind them were at least another 10 or 12 young people, all nicely dressed, also speaking Mandarin. For a moment, this was profoundly disorienting.

Wham. Bang. Maybe nothing had changed outside the train window, but something really big had changed on the inside. I don’t recall ever hearing Chinese spoken during this train ride in my school days, or at least not Mandarin. Cantonese or Taishan dialect, maybe. There just weren’t that many Chinese people around in those days, especially Mandarin speakers, outside of New York’s Chinatown.

My god, I thought, Chinese people really have taken over the world, even New Jersey!

I faced a slight dilemma. My initial instinct was to say “Hello” to the two college-aged women sitting next to me, and strike up a good neighborly conversation in Chinese. They were still chattering away, completely unaware and unlikely to guess that I could understand what they were saying.

On second thought it seemed kind of odd to strike up a conversation under the circumstances. I don’t normally talk to strangers across the aisle on trains or airplanes, and they were busily talking to each other. So what’s the point? I decided to mind my own business. (I silently thought I might later change my mind if one of them said something about “that old fart across the aisle” or some such; but this never came to pass.) I kept looking out the window.

By the time we arrived at Princeton, all the young Chinese passengers got off, and I eventually realized that many of them were also delegates to the GCC conference. The largest group was from Tsinghua University.

The Princeton campus is very pretty, and despite a lot of new buildings, looked very familiar. A representative from GCC met me at the train station and we walked across the snowy campus to the Woodrow Wilson School.

When I arrived at the conference hall I was surprised to find that the majority of the 200 or so delegates were ethnic Chinese students, many originally from the Chinese mainland. They spoke excellent English and carried themselves with poise and maturity. The non ethnic Chinese spoke good Chinese. This was a very bright group of young people.

The conference was extremely well organized — all through the hard work and effort of undergraduate student volunteers. Very impressive.

I think my presentation went fairly well. Readers interested in seeing it on video can click on this link:

Right place, Right Time: Factoring China into Your Career Path – 1

Right place, Right Time: Factoring China into Your Career Path – 2

Right place, Right Time: Factoring China into Your Career Path – 3

Right place, Right Time: Factoring China into Your Career Path – 4

I praised the organizers for the great job they were doing, not only with the conference but with helping each other better understand China’s developing relationship with the world, and to chart rewarding and productive career paths.

On the train trip back to New York that evening, my head was full of thoughts about how dramatically China’s integration with the world generally, and America in particular, has progressed since my school days. This is a very important development, with positive implications for the future.


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