There are certain parts of culture or personal experience that cannot be explained away.  Several of the English names chosen by my students is one example.  Didi is fine for a girl in English, but means little brother in Chinese, but female students chose it.  Zach is an acceptable boy’s name, but for some reason it’s ridiculously funny-sounding to the Chinese.  One of the few names that resulted in titters, even when students heard the name every day for attendance.  But the most marvelous name choice of all was Roxie.

She was a shy, retiring student who was very dedicated to her studies.  I don’t think I paid much attention to her (despite her English name) until one day in class she actually answered one fo my questions.  Student participation is always difficult to encourage, and I’m not sure she’s ever spoken in class before, but when I called on her she stood up and just didn’t stop.  I finally had to cut her off, and that even took awhile.  She was determined.

Roxie as a person was naive, but beautifully so.  She chose her English name in blissful ignorance and lived her life the same way.  Foolish notions sprung up in her mind fully formed, and once she set her mind to one of them, she would not be deterred.  I remember I took her to a coffee shop one afternoon, and told her I would buy her any drink on the menu she wanted.  Instantly she decided on whiskey, despite the fact that she hadn’t had alcohol before, excepting a few sips of the family’s rice wine at home.  I tried to convince her she wouldn’t like it, or that she should at least get something to chase the stuff – but no, she wanted whiskey, straight up.

I got it for her, and she didn’t like it, so I ended up drinking it instead, but the idea lingered.  I like thinking of her, mostly quiet and calm, with occasional precocious flashes that disturb and startle those around her.  I like the idea of life inspiration, some sudden fancy that comes to you and that you pursue beyond a whim.  I like the idea of fire, even if momentary, in a life.

Roxie and I still keep in touch.  She’s in grad school now, studying to be a translator and working part-time on the side.  I think she’ll do well – she’s always been a dedicated student.  Still, occasionally she manages to surprise me.  She writes:  ‘Last week, we went to a bar for fun. You must feel surprised. I drank some whisky, and got a little drunk. Anyway, it’s my first time to go there. I think it’s pretty fun.  Don’t worry about me. I know what is good for me, and I will work hard at all the goals in my life.’  Well.  What more can one ask?


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