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Monday 19 March 2012

Waiting for the slow boat from China!

Waiting for the slow boat from China!

In December 2011 I received the news that I had been patiently waiting for since negotiations to translate my first publication were completed in December 2010. I was informed almost a year to the day after that first meeting in Hong Kong, that the Chinese version of my first book had been published by SAHK (formerly the Spastic Association of Hong Kong).

The book was fresh off the press just in time for a two-day conference in Guangzhou, organised by the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, where it was to be distributed free of charge, to all of the delegates from Mainland China. What an honour it is for me to have my translated words read by so many people, many more than will have read them in their original English.

There were no photographs for me to see of the books’ distribution but I did receive an English translation of the forward that I published here on my Blog in December:

I then waited patiently for the slow boat from China to arrive, bringing in its hold ten Chinese copies, all for me!

At the conference in Rosenheim last weekend I met Rony Schenker. How excited I was to discover that she had seen a Chinese copy, having been at that conference in China. She had actually held one in her hands!

My wait was filled anew with excitement.

As she pointed out, had she had known that the slow-boat was going to be so slow she would have brought a copy to Germany with her, via Israel!

Little did I know that the wait was nearly over

At the Rosenheim conference I had no need for a Chinese version of my first book, other than to show off a bit. I had with me instead one-hundred and fifty copies of my second book, in German and English, and it was these I wanted to sell.

When I returned to Nürnberg from the conference, I found a letter in my letter-box from the customs office that is situated far out of town, down by the harbour on the Main-Danube Canal.

The letter informed me that my books had been impounded by customs! If I took an invoice with me I could have them. I had just two weeks to recover them before they would be put on the next slow boat back again!

I was straight on the phone to explain that I had not bought these books, that they were a present and that therefore I had no invoice. I was informed by a very friendly man that all I needed was an email to confirm this and the books would be mine if I made the long trek out to the customs office at the harbour.

On the following day a parcel was waiting for me on the stairs, in was the package from the slow boat from China. Ten books in Chinese and how splendid they looked, real works of art.

So what was impounded at the harbour?

The customs office was holding three extra books that had been posted from Hong Kong by Swiftpost only a few days previously. Ivan in Hong Kong had decided that I had waited just too long for that boat and he had kindly send me an extra three copies to reach me at lightning speed!

It was these three copies that I had to set about retrieving today.

What an adventure I had

I armed myself with the requested email and a copy of the English version of the book, just in case I needed more proof. I set off by two underground lines and two buses to my destination, the port of Nürnberg on the Main-Danube Canal.

The street can only be called Hamburgerstrasse for one reason. I felt just like I was in Hamburg because of the mountains of containers stored beside the canal.

The bus driver had no idea where he should stop to let me out but luckily a young man kindly showed me the way from his bus stop. Only forty-five minutes after leaving the house I took my ticket to join the queue of four other people also hoping to retrieve their goods.

I waited patiently reading an old Christmas copy of the Oldie until I was summoned. A young man gave me a knife to open my parcel with and read through the email that I gave him. He flicked through the book in Chinese and also though the English version that I had shown him in order to prove my point. He asked whether I had written it.

“Is this you?” he said pointing to my name on the custom’s letter and the name on the book. “Yes”, I proudly answered, “that’s me!”

I forgot that there is a picture of me on the back cover but he believed me anyway.

As I was signing forms at another office, still wondering how much I was going to have to pay to get my books the young customs officer asked me what it was that I had written about. I explained as well as I could in the space of thirty seconds and told him too what an honour it was for me to have the Chinese version distributed amongst so many people who were now setting out on their conductive upbringings in Mainland China.

I also enthused about how much prettier the Chinese version looked in comparison to the English version. The customs officer agreed with me, he took the signed forms, handed over the books and packaging, wished me well and sent me on my way.

This had been, despite the long cold trek, with me coughing as if on my last legs, quite a soul- healing journey. There was no grumpy customs officer, just a friendly young man who was interested in meeting an author and even had time to spare to enquire about what it is that I write about.

I did actually offer him the English version but he politely declined, saying that it was enough if I just explained it to him a little bit, as I had written it. The Chinese version really looks so gorgeous, a work of art, that I am not surprised that this man took such an interest in it.

So that was the story of the last leg of the Swiftpost from China, not very swift but very soul-healing.
It was nice to be a “famous” translated author, just for a few minutes!


Let me tell you a story, Book One - published by Conductor, Nürnberg
Chinese translation – published by SAHK, ISBN 978-962-8890-32-3

The Main-Danube Canal, Nürnberg -

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