Chantaporn Kamchan concluded it was a lucky coincidence as her school only offered Japanese and Chinese majors referring to the reasons why she chose to study Chinese. She was one of the only five students who chose Chinese. "The teacher was from China, so I thought I could learn a very standard dialect of Chinese. Unlike today, there were few students in Thailand learning Chinese back then."
In order to better learn Chinese, Chantaporn followed her teacher's advice and downloaded social message app QQ. She soon made Chinese friends online and started to practice the language. "There were many times when I didn't understand what they were writing, so I'd just type 'hahaha.' They knew I was from Thailand and didn't despise me for that," she said.
Even now, she still maintains some of the habits of her college years, such as listening to Chinese music and watching Chinese movies and TV. "I didn't understand why the teacher always listened to Jay Chou at first. His songs were really difficult to understand, and I needed to read the lyrics. Later, I found that I could understand his songs, meaning that my Chinese listening ability improved a lot," she said.
Familiarity with Jinhua
When Chantaporn first arrived in Jinhua, her colleagues would often take her to eat malatang and barbecued skewers. "They wanted to know if I found them delicious, but I was not used to the food and was too embarrassed to say so, so I just said they were good," she said. "Everyone thought I liked those snacks, so they often took me to these places, and I finally got used to the food."
Every time her colleagues celebrate a traditional festival, they would bring her traditional treats, such as zongzi, Qingming rice balls, and wontons. She also cooks Thai dishes which all her colleagues love.
Chantaporn spends most of the year in Jinhua, which gives her the chance to visit the city's surroundings. "Yiwu is where I've been to the most. The products at the International Trade City are very cheap. I found the glass skywalk in the Lingjiangyuan Scenic Area of Pan'an to be terrific, and I've been to Dongyang, Yongkang, Wuyi, and Lanxi."
She explained that having lived in Jinhua for so long, it's now difficult to get lost. However, she often loses her way when she returns to Thailand. "After work, I like to go for walks in the Jinhua Ancient City, around the Wu Opera Theater. The Wanfo Pagoda is spectacular, and the scenery on both sides of the Wujiang River is beautiful," she said. She thinks Jinhua is very comfortable and has a very clean air. She enjoys her life in Jinhua.
In addition to working in Jinhua, Chantaporn also needs to work in the company's factories in Thailand and Myanmar. But she still feels most at home in Jinhua, saying that she is most familiar with her coworkers in the Chinese city.
Her vacation days are aligned with the calendar of the factory in Jinhua, which means she has never spent Spring Festival in China. This year, due to the pandemic, she will stay in Jinhua for the Spring Festival. "Many colleagues have already invited me to celebrate with them. I'm looking forward to experiencing the Chinese New Year, seeing the traditional customs, and feeling the atmosphere."
(Text and photo by Sheng Zan, additional photos provided by the interviewees, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Kendra Fiddler)