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Christmas in China: Another holiday away in a longForeign Service trek
This is the 13th Christmas away for aForeign Service family
By Joe Davidson Columnist December 21

中国过圣诞:异国他乡的别样假期
一个外交官家庭的第13个圣诞节



Lycia and Chris Sibilla at the Great Wall in China. Lycia joined the Foreign Service about thesame time Chris retired from it. They are posted in Beijing. (Family photo)

莉西亚与克里斯夫妇在中国长城。克里斯退休的同时,莱西亚进入外事部门。他们被派驻北京。

BEIJING — Every Christmas season, we arereminded, and rightly so, of U.S. troops stationed overseas. Televisionstations broadcast shots of them sending greetings to loved ones. Prayers arelifted for those in harm’s way. Pinterest.com hasa page of poster ideas with messages like “Merry Christmas to soldierseverywhere who can’t be with their families.”

每到圣诞节,我们很自然地想起美军那些驻海外部队。以及电视台播放他们问候亲人,以及那些为负伤军人祈祷的场景。pinterest网站在一篇创意海报上写道:“祝每一个无法与家人团聚的军人圣诞快乐”。

There’s another set of Americans who alsoare stationed far away guarding the nation’s interests, sometimes in dangeroussituations. Understandably, the armed forces get more attention, but ForeignService officers, other civilian government employees and their families alsosacrifice for their country. The State Department alone has almost 9,500employees abroad. That doesn’t include Agency for International Development,intelligence and other civilian employees stationed abroad.

还有一些美国人远离国家庇护,甚至是在危险的环境下驻扎。人们更为关注的是军队,这可以理解,但外交官、及文职政府雇员与其家属也是为他们的国家做出牺牲的。仅国务院就有9500名海外雇员。这还不包括国际发展、情报机构和派驻海外的其他文职人员。

This will be Chris Sibilla’s 13th Christmasoverseas. Now he’s in China,a place where Christmas isn’t much of a religious holiday. That’s not to saythe Chinese don’t celebrate, at least in a capitalistic way. Christmasdecorations lured customers when I visited China earlier this month on a trip organized bythe National Association of Black Journalists.

克里斯将在中国度过第十三个圣诞节。但中国圣诞节没多少节日氛围。并不是说中国没有庆祝活动,至少和西方不同。本月初我跟随全国黑人记者学会组织来到中国,圣诞氛围的装饰让人留恋。

Sibilla was a Foreign Service officer (FSO)from 1986 until he retired nearly three decades later. His last posting was ondetail to the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. He was chosen asADST president after retiring from State in 2015, having served as executivedirector. About the time he was leaving the Foreign Service, his wife, Lycia,joined, so they remain a Foreign Service family. Their other postings includeCopenhagen, Costa Rica, Havana, Moscow and Vienna.

克里斯是从1986年起当起外交官的,从业30后退休。他最后一次公职是去外交研究培训协会进行讲座。2015年从公务员职位退休后,他被选为ADST总裁(注:ADST 美国一家机床公司),并担任执行董事。他离开外交部的同时,他的妻子莱西亚就加入了进来,所以他们仍算是个外交官家庭。他们的工作范围仍包括哥本哈根、哥斯达黎加、哈瓦那、莫斯科和维也纳。

Now they live in Beijing’s Chaoyangdistrict, about two blocks from the U.S. Embassy. From their 17th floorapartment in a 25-story building, they have a nice view, when it’s not thwartedby Beijing’s thick pollution. It can leave their balcony too sooty to use.Their Northern California loyalties are evident by the big Golden StateWarriors sticker on the refrigerator and the Stanford University blanket on thecouch.

现在他们居住在北京朝阳区,离美国大使馆只有两个街区的一幢25层高的17层公寓里。如北京雾霾天气在不严重的情况下,从这里望出去的景观还是很漂亮的。但严重的话有就会让阳台蒙上黒尘没法使用。他们怀有浓重的北加州情节,从冰箱上贴的大金州勇士贴纸,以及沙发上铺的斯坦福大学毯子上,可见一斑。

Except for Copenhagen before their two sonswere born, this is the first posting without their now-grown children.

除去哥本哈根,在他们两个孩子出生之前,这是篇仅没有晒孩子成长的帖子。

I spoke with Chris Sibilla, who turns 59the day after Christmas, about life abroad as a Foreign Service family in acountry many don’t understand. The embassy nixed my request to speak withLycia. This is an edited transcript of my conversations with Chris.

圣诞节后的第二天,我和59岁的克里斯想谈谈,一个生活在国外的外交家庭中很多不为人知的生活情况。但大使馆拒绝了我采访莱西亚的请求。以下是我和克里斯经过编辑后的访谈文字实录。

Federal Insider: How will you spendChristmas this year?

联邦内部人问:今年你的圣诞节要怎样过呢?

Sibilla: We will be going to Christmas Evemass at the Swedish embassy, celebrated by our regular Catholic priest, andthen to a traditional Christmas buffet called a julebord hosted by a SwedishCatholic couple at their home in the Swedish compound. Most of our friends willbe traveling out of the country, so we won’t be able to see them until January.

茜比亚:我们将要去瑞典大使馆,参加由我们正式天主教牧师主持的圣诞前弥撒活动。然后加入一个有传统圣诞自助餐的纳维亚主题聚会,这是一对瑞典天主教夫妇在家中庭院主持的聚会。我们的大多数朋友都会离开中国,所以我们一月份才能见到他们。

How much language training did you havebefore going to China?

你去中国前学点汉语了么?

Even though this time I was only a spouse,I was able to get the eight months of training that Lycia had. [Chinese is oneof the] “super hard languages.” That’s the actual term they use at the StateDepartment. I sort of gave up on the reading after a couple of months becauseit was so difficult.

尽管这次去我只是当个陪伴,但还是和莱西亚学了八个月。中文是个“超级难的语言”。这是他们国务院里的原话。但坚持了几个月后就放弃了,因为真太难了。

Do you have any issues on day-to-day things such as shopping?

对一些比如买东西等的家常里外的事,还遇到过什么问题吗。

They do have supermarkets like in theUnited States, but they are few and far between, so most of the time, we go toa little market downstairs in the apartment building and the one down thestreet. You can get just about everything delivered to your door, especiallyfood. You can even have (hot) coffee delivered to your door. You can actuallyhave McDonald’s delivered to your door. You see the guys on the little scootersgoing around with yellow jackets and the golden arches on their back.

中国有跟美国一样的大型超市,但不多,彼此间还不近,所以大多数时候,我们通常是到公寓旁临街的小超市。他们可以把你所有想要的东西送到你家门口,尤其吃的。他们甚至可以把还发(烫)的咖啡送到你家。实际上你可以叫麦当劳的外卖。你会看到穿着黄夹克后背印着麦当劳标识骑电动车的人。

How are your relationships with thelocals?

你在中国交到朋友了么?

It’s difficult, because China is one of thoseplaces in the world where if we sort of bump into somebody who’s Chinese, wehave to make a contact report to our diplomatic security because they areconcerned about espionage.

不好说,在中国,与世界其他地方不同,我们如果在这里碰到中国人,就必须要向我们外交安全部上报一份接触报告,怕遇上间谍。

How do youpractice your religion in a country with very few Catholics or otherChristians?

在一个很少信天主教或基督的国家里,你如何展开宗教活动。

The government hasn’t wanted to encouragethe Catholic Church at all. When we go to church on Sunday, we go to the Canadianembassy. We have mass at the auditorium at the embassy. And a lot of people arethere. You have people from Africa, France, Germany and other places.

政府对天主教一点都不鼓励。星期天想要去教堂的时候,我们就去加拿大使馆。在大使馆礼堂里做弥撒。那里的人很多,有非洲人、法国人、德国还有一些其他地方的人。

Do relations between the United Statesand China affectyour daily life? If there’s an increase in tension, does it get more difficultfor you in any way?

中美关系会不会影响到你的日常生活?如果中美关系出现紧张,会不会给你带来麻烦?

We haven’t really had any problem on aday-to-day basis. Once in a while, there are demonstrations in front of theembassy, but that luckily hasn’t been a real problem.

平时我们从未受到什么影响,只是偶尔会遇到大使馆前有示威活动,但幸运的是,这算不上什么问题。

What is the best thing about living in China, and what is theworst thing?

在中国遇到最好、最糟的问题都是什么?

Well, the best thing is that it really is afascinating country. It’s really amazing to see how far the economy has come in20 or 30 years. The history is really very impressive. The worst thing — the pollutionis probably No. 1. Just two or three days ago, it was code red. And it’sunfortunately going to be code red again in a day or two. You know that reallyis tough, especially if you have asthma like I do. It’s not exactly inviting toget outside and walk.

嗯,最棒的是,中国真的是一个迷人的国家。看到它们在2、3十年内的巨大发展令人震惊。中国历史让人印象深刻。不好的事情嘛…首先就是污染问题了,两三天前还是空气质量红色预警。不幸的是,过两天又是红色预警了。尤其对于我这样患有哮喘的人来说,真的很难受,出去活动活动的想法并不会让人提起兴趣。

What do you do for entertainment?

你都有什么娱乐活动?

A variety of things. Luckily, we do havecable TV, which is nice. There’s a really nice movie theater in a very niceshopping center a half a mile from where we are. We were interested in seeing“Crazy Rich Asians,” but that was delayed because some people on the Chinesecensor board thought that it may have been too critical of Chinese people. Thenit didn’t do very well, and it closed very quickly. We can often get NBA games(on TV), like about four times a week, so we can watch the Golden StateWarriors the next morning. It’s a live feed, so that’s kind of fun.

什么都有啦。巧的是,我们有个有线电视,真的不错。在离我们住处不到一千米的地方,有个不错的购物中心,还有个相当棒的电影院。我们对《疯狂的亚洲富人》(注:摘金奇缘)电影很感兴趣。但电影被推迟上映了。因为这部影片过审时,他们可能认为影片对中国人太过挑剔了。影片拍的不太好,很快就下架了。我们经常在电视上看NBA比赛,大约每周可以看四次,所以我们可以在第二天早上就可以看到金州勇士队的比赛。而且是现场直播的,真棒。

One otherthing I wanted to mention is sort of a cultural thing. We talked with a few ofour black colleagues about people coming up to them and wanting to touch theirhair. We’ve seen blond children, where people would just start taking picturesof them without even asking the parents. One time, a Chinese woman grabbed achild in the restaurant and took him off into another room without sayinganything, just to show this little blond child off to her friends.

有几件关于文明礼貌的事情,我想说说。几位黑人同事都跟我聊过,有些人来到他们面前,伸手就想摸摸他们的头发。我们还遇到过有一个满头金发的孩子,有人甚至不请示一下他们的父母,就给他们拍照。有次在饭店里,一个中国女人拉着一个孩子,把她领到另一个房间,也不解释,就是想让他的朋友见见这个金发小女孩。

The other thing I want to add, it’s that wedo feel very distant being here sometimes, because of the difference of time.When I was talking with my mom in California, it was a 15-hour or 16-hourdifference. I think this is a problem any time you’re living overseas. Any timeyou have a family crisis or even when you’re celebrating something joyous, youfeel more distant from them, and that can be also pretty difficult.

多说一句,由于时差不同,有时我们在这里,确实有种远离他乡的感觉。当我想和在加利福尼亚的妈妈打电话时,居然会有15或16小时的时差。我认为无论什么时候,只要你远离他乡出门在外,就不可避免地会遇到这个问题。无论家里遇到麻烦,还是遇到高兴的时候,你都会感觉离得他们更为遥远,这着实让人沮丧。