Becoming He Si Lan

8 11 2005

music: 綠光 by Yan Zi

this is a journal entry that I wanted to share.

During SST, I read “The Robber Bride” by Margaret Atwood. A theme within the story is the power of a new name when you are becoming a new person. Tony internalized her alternate name, Karen became Charis, both of them drew strength from their new names. I understand this phenomena, because I too have drawn strength from my new name. My Chinese name.
I was given the name He Si Lan during the first day of Chinese class. I didn’t like it at first. It sounded abrupt. All upward tones. It was all sharp edges. The family name didn’t mean anything, and I’m so proud of the heritage my German last name and it’s meaning. “Missing a beautiful flower” The meaning of Si Lan appealed to me at first because it made me think of Jesse, but in a couple weeks that was gone too, somewhat of joke really. I found out from Tan Wei that Si was really pronounced with a first tone giving the whole name more shape, and that helped, but the name didn’t feel like it had anything to do with me.
I fell in love with my name on National Day. I was in Yi Bin, and Eunice, Echo, and their aunt took me to a local hall that had at one time been the city’s opera hall, and was now used as a sort of Chinese traditional karaoke with a live band. The stage was a balcony and tables were scattered on balconies on the sides, and on the sides of the hall floor. The center courtyard was open to the air. I loved it. That night I sang three times on stage, and the head male singer sang “My Heart Will Go On” in Chinese for me. He also announced me each time I sang, and he called me He Si Lan. He was the first person to really use that name outside of Chinese class. It was thrilling, and I suddenly felt like the name was really part of me.
My name grew in significance when I found out that almost 30 years ago the rest of my family was also given the family name He. What are the odds, that 30 years apart and in a completely different part of the country we’d all be cristened He? Connections with my family are very important to me because of how far apart we have been at times.
I didn’t really own the name though, until I moved to Eastern Campus and my roommates called me Si Lan. Suddenly I was Si Lan. Si Lan is a part of me. She is everything that China has taught me. She is the stronger version that rose from the ashes of my burnt heart. She knows that she can never stay in the US all of her life, China will call to her. I’m not so very different than I was before, but I’m not just Stephanie anymore, there will always be part of me that only answers to the name He Si Lan.




One response

24 11 2005

Stephanie!! how are you doing? when are you coming home?? sorry i haven’t had a chance to read your blogs and i’m sure you’ve mentioned it and maybe you’re even home already (if so…i’m so sorry-i have a bad memory). anyways, i’ve been thinking of you TONS and praying for you too. I really really really want to get together with you as soon as we can. maybe do a coffee house night just to relax, hangout, and talk. i know you are a very busy girl (as am I) but hopefully we can figure sometime out. i’m here for you!! love you dear ~Kari

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