Reporters on the Job

Hello Robert, my old friend: Beijing's English Corner is a great place to meet a cross-section of Chinese, according to staff writer Robert Marquand (page 1). "Every Friday evening, starting around 6 p.m., it becomes crowded with a huge number of people looking for jobs with joint ventures, eager to practice their English, or just exchange views about the West," says Bob. "It's not the crowd you'd find at Starbucks. Some people are just going into the Army, some are just coming out. Most are not the fashionistas who go to the latest hotspots."

The unifying factor is the requirement that everyone try to speak English. And they do so with great enthusiasm, according to Bob, who found that he was mobbed - in a polite sort of way. "People were extremely kind," he says. "They don't get enough good English speakers. As I sat there, with some 12 people crowded around me, someone would push through and ask if they could practice their English - as if no one were standing there beside them."

Many people wanted to know why the US was trying to block China from becoming great. But some also exhibited detailed knowledge of US culture. One woman turned out to be an authority on Simon and Garfunkel - and had thought deeply about the lyrics of their signature song, 'Scarborough Fair.' "According to her, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme all stand for ardent and pure affection."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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