Last week I was asked to help edit a translation of a proposal for a Garden of Chinese Herbs at the new campus of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is the University where I will be interning and studying, so of course I was glad to help out.

On Friday Lara and I took the bus to their campus. I was told the work would take about two hours, then we would all have dinner together. When we arrived our contact, Angel, said there was a driver who would be taking us and her associate, Tracy, to their new campus where I would do the editing. The drive was to take about fifty minutes.

Angel and Tracy of course are not their actual names. English speaking Chinese here often take American names, perhaps thinking we couldn’t possibly pronounce their real names.

The new campus is huge, with a tremendous archway entrance featuring a colossal Yin Yang symbol, and Ginkgo leave cutouts along the outer fence surrounding the campus. It is very modern and well layed out. The campus dorms probably house thousands of students.

Upon our arrival we were escorted into a TV studio and I was asked to read the English translation so they could record it. They said the English translation would be used for fundraising for the garden. The translation however was very poor, and much of it did not make sense: “Herbs aroma emitting in woods: Gazed into the distance, the spiral trail winds through the chain of hills and woods where aroma of the flourishing herbs flying over.”

I told them I would need a couple of days to work with the translation to rewrite it and get it to be clear and understandable. That in order to make recording me reading it a worthwhile project, the English would need to be improved. After lots of conversations involving half a dozen people, and a phone call, I was told the University President was expecting the recording the next morning and there was no time to further clarify the translation. It was to be used as a voiceover on a video. It had to be done now.

Fortunately Lara was with me, so we started working on making it more intelligible. After a little while I started reading the 18 page proposal, while Lara edited the pages just ahead of me. It all worked out well, but some of what I had to read was very comical. For instance, the conclusion: “World rise and fall, everyone has a share of responsibility! Inheriting Tradition, advocating innovation, stressing on the characteristics, strengthening superiority, serving society are the beliefs of CDUTCM people; Persisting in scientifically developing, constructing harmonious society are our responsibility; let us join hands to make our contributions and achievements for the realization of the Four Leap Cross of Sichuan Province!” Only once did we have to stop because I started cracking up. Some of the things I read were so ridiculous.

The garden project itself is really incredible. They basically want to have an herbal farm, where they can cultivate and distribute Chinese herbs on a large scale. It’s a worthy project, I just don’t know how much the English version of the fundraising proposal is going to help. This is what I tried to explain to them. They may want me to work on the translation and re-record it. We shall see.

Tomorrow Lara and I meet our new Tai Ji Chuan instructor at Chengdu University.