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British Face, Beijinger's Heart
Foreigners in China
Carl Crook has a foreign face, but Mandarin is his mother tongue.

The Briton was born in Beijing in 1949, the year the People's Republic of China was founded.

The 58-year-old introduces himself as "a contemporary of the New China" in recognition of the fact that his life story includes many of the experiences that defined the lives of most Chinese people his age - from the "cultural revolution" to economic reform.

In fact, Crook could be one of the most informed foreign witnesses of the changes that have taken place in China in recent decades.

This Beijinger and his American wife live in a traditional quadrangle dwelling that is now surrounded by Western-style residential high-rises. Their 450-sq-m house stands out for its low profile.

The living room, with its many books, CDs, blue and white porcelain, and Chinese-style furniture, is a temple to Chinese culture. And though Crook is the managing director of the Montrose Food & Wine, no wine can be seen.

Several faded, blown-up photos of Crook's parents dressed in uniforms of the Eighth Route Army led by the Communist Party of China during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression are a testament to his family's connection to Chinese history.

Any story about the Crook family's life in China must begin with Carl's father, David:

David Crook joined the British Communist Party in 1936, and then volunteered to fight with the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

But the young soldier was injured on his first day on a battlefield. While recovering in hospital, he read the book Red Star Over China by the American journalist Edgar Snow. His interest in the Asian giant was piqued.

David Crook traveled to Shanghai in 1938 to teach literature and English at a church school and gather intelligence.

A year later, he had to leave the city because of the war with Japan. He moved to Chengdu, where he fell in love with Isabel Brown, the daughter of a Canadian missionary. She had been born in the capital city of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The two shared an interest in land reform in the country.

In 1947, the couple traveled to the country's northern region, the site of largest liberated area, to reside at a village called Ten Mile Inn, Hebei Province.

It was the first time a Chinese village had been opened to foreigners for observation since the war had broken out.

Rather than taking advantage of the benefits of living as a guest of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Crook's parents stayed and ate with local people.

During the daytime, they observed the villagers' activities. At night they arranged their notes by the light of an oil lamp.

Their book, Ten Mile Inn - Revolution in a Chinese Village, was published in London in 1959.

The text examines how the village was transformed into a revolutionary battlefield and did much to help Westerners understand China's land reform.

Crook's parents were supposed to have left for England after China's liberation, but they instead accepted an offer from the CPC to become the first foreign experts to teach English in Beijing.

"I spent my childhood in a compound rather than in the alleys in which typical Beijingers grew up. From this point of view, I am a new generation of Beijinger," Crook said.

He said that in the days immediately following the establishment of the New China, more than 2 million people from across the country flocked to Beijing to help develop the capital.

Those people - which included university professors and military officials - lived in dormitories rather than ordinary dwellings, according to their social status.

However, the high enclosing walls that surrounded their residences did not entirely block out the outside world. Carl Crook's maid would often take him out for walks.

In those days it was rare to see a foreign child in the city, so he was constantly surrounded by curious onlookers who would shower him with snacks - that is, until the day he came down with stomach problems.

"After that there was always a note attached to my clothes saying 'no feeding please', like a notice at a zoo warning visitors not to feed an animal," Crook said.

"I wonder if my mother did this for me, but she never admitted to it."

Crook did not learn how to speak English until the age of eight.

"My parents were embarrassed that they had lived in China for so long, especially my mother, yet they still couldn't manage to speak Mandarin very well. They didn't want the same to happen to their children," he said.

The situation changed after he spent a year in England and Canada, during which his English improved dramatically. Communicating in English became more convenient for his parents at home.

"But when I talk with my two brothers, we always use Chinese," he said.

In order not to spoil the boy, Crook's parents sent him to a boarding school in Beijing's Chongwen District.

Most of the time he got on well with his Chinese classmates, though there were the occasional fights.

"They felt nothing but hatred, and even blamed me for the invasion by the Eight-Power Allied Forces, which took place more than half a century ago, though of course I had nothing to do with it. Somehow I wonder if they were descendants of the Chinese Boxers," he said.

"At times like those it was difficult to be a foreigner in China," he said.

The "cultural revolution" (1966-76) proved to be a particularly dark time for the Crook family.

Both of his parents were sent to jail for five years, while he was sent to the suburbs to work first at a farm machinery factory and then at a vehicle repair factory.

"I didn't blame China for it. In fact, I regarded it as our destiny," he said.

"Honestly, I didn't suffer a lot during the revolution because a lot of people tried to help and protect us. For instance, my parents continued to get their salaries even though they were behind bars. They got 180 yuan per person each month, while I got about 20 yuan a month. So actually I was comparatively well off at the time," he said.



英国脸,中国心

    卡尔•克鲁克有一张外国脸,但普通话却是他的母语。 这个英国人出生在1949年的北京,这一年中国人民共和国成立了。

    事实上,克鲁克作为一个知情的外国人,见证了发生在中国数十年的变化。

    这个北京人和他的美国妻子住在一个传统的四合院里,它的周围现在都成了西式住宅高楼。

    摆放着许多书籍、CD唱片,、蓝色和白色的瓷器、中国式家具的客厅简直就是中国文化的庙宇。虽然克鲁克是蒙特罗斯食物&酒的总经理,但是客厅里却没有酒。

    几张褪了色的放大的照片证明了他们家同中国历史的关系。照片里克鲁克的父母,身着抗日战争时期中国共产党八路军军服。

    所有关于克鲁克家人在中国的故事都必须从卡尔的父亲大卫讲起。

    大卫•克鲁克在读了美国记者艾德加•斯洛的《红星照耀中国》以后,深受鼓舞。于是,在1938年,他来到上海。一年以后,他到了成都,在那里,他爱上了一个加拿大传教士的女儿,依莎贝尔•布朗。

    1947年,夫妻俩来到中国的北部地区,那里是最大的解放区,他们居住在河北省一个叫做十里店的地方。他们和当地人一起吃一起生活。

    他们写了一本名叫《十里店——一个中国乡村的革命》的书,1959年在伦敦出版。

    这本书研究了乡村怎样转化为一个革命性的战场,并且对西方人了解中国的土地改革有很大帮助。

    克鲁克的父母本来在中国解放以后就应该回英国的,但是他们没有这样做,反而接受共产党的邀请,作为第一个教英语的外国专家留在北京。

    "不像典型的北京人在大街小巷中度过他们的童年,我的童年是在大院里度过的。从这个角度看,我是一个新一代的北京人, "克鲁克说。 

    在那些日子里,在城里看到一个外国小孩是相当罕见的,因此,他的周围总是围满了好奇的人们,塞给他小吃——直到有一天他因为胃的问题而倒下了。

    "这之后,就总会有一张写着'请不要喂食'的纸条贴在我的衣服上 ,就像动物园里警告游客不要喂饲动物的通知, "克鲁克说。

    "我很疑惑这是不是我妈妈做的,但她从未承认。" 

    克鲁克在8岁以前都没有学习过英语。

    "我的父母不好意思说,他们在中国生活了这么久,尤其是我的母亲,他们仍然不能掌握好说普通话。他们不希望同样的情况在他们的子女身上发生,"他说。

    他在英国和加拿大待了一年,在此期间,他的英语突飞猛进。

    为了教好男孩,克鲁克的父母把他送到北京崇文区的一所寄宿学校。

    大部分的时间,他与他的中国同学和睦相处,虽然偶尔会打架。

   "他们只是单纯的仇恨,甚至指责我,因为超过半世纪前的八国联军,虽然当然那跟我没有关系。在某种程度上,我不知道他们是不是中国义和团员的子孙,"他说。

    "在这样的时刻,一个外国人在中国是很难的, "他说。 

    “文化大革命” (1966-76)期间,他和他的弟弟试图离开中国,直至1973年他们才得到许可。于是两人开始了长达7个月的回英国的旅程。

    克鲁克的工作经验使得他很容易找一份工作。后来,他到美国,继续他的学习。之后他取得了教育和东亚研究硕士学位。怀着一展抱负的希望,克鲁克在20世纪80年代中期回到中国。
 
    较其他候选人,他出色的普通话是很大的优势,他成了一名西方石油天然气集团公司北京办事处(1985至1989年)的代表,该公司在山西有一个煤矿项目。

    他形容北京是一个扣人心弦的城市,并表示他很荣幸能够在这里见证许多已经发生的变化,因为当局开始了经济改革。

    在他的闲暇时间,这个北京人喜欢研究中国的历史和文学,他经常探访他的92岁的老母亲,她也生活在这个城市,并且非常健康。

    克鲁克把北京看作他的家乡。 "就像读一本我最喜爱的书,这个城市让我感到内心的温暖和快乐。"



 

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