So… One thing I left out of my last update…
The new company I’m working for is focused on language training for businesses. They are not just focused on teaching English to Chinese people. They have classes to teach English, German, and Japanese (there are many foreign companies in Taicang). Those, however, are all directed at Chinese people who want to learn a foreign language.
The other thing they do is to teach foreigners how to speak Chinese.
I have started taking classes to learn Chinese. I’ve done a lot of studying on my own, but dictionaries only go so far. Learning a language really requires help from someone who knows the language. I’ve only had 2 classes so far, but I’m learning a lot.
Whenever we get a new student in an English class, one of the first things we do is ask them to choose an English name. This is typical for all foreign-language classes (I was “Martín” in Lucho’s Spanish Class). So.. I had to choose a Chinese name. This has been an ongoing issue with me. I have wanted to have a Chinese name for a while. It’s polite, and helps to connect with the students and those who don’t speak English.
Here There Be Dragons
A former student suggested “dragon”. The dragon is a respected figure in mythology, representing authority (such as emperors). There’s one problem, however. The Chinese word for “dragon” is “long”.
I just could not, with a straight face, say “Hi. I’m Long”. The sexual connotations of the name are lost on (most of) the Chinese, but I still couldn’t do it.
Everyone here knows me as “Blaze”, so I asked about names involving “fire”. I asked… What about “fire dragon” (huo long)? A coworker of mine laughed and said “No. Huo long gua”. That means “dragon fruit”.
Okay… I didn’t want to be named for a fruit. I’ve met people here named “Cherry” and :Chili Pepper” and “Banana” and even “Potato”. I didn’t want to be “that fruit guy”.
When I was talking with the staff of my new company about this, they said I should choose both a “first name” and a “family name”. I did some thinking and finally asked if “Long” would be okay as a family name. They said it’s uncommon, but acceptable. And for a “first name” I asked if “fire heart” would be okay. It basically means “passion” (in English), and is close to the historical meaning of “Blaze” as a name. They said it’s not a “true” Chinese name, but good enough for a foreigner.
The New Me
So… I now have my official Chinese name. I am Long Huo Shin (龙火心) — “Fire Heart of the Dragon Family”.
 In China, like most of Asia, they list their family name first and their given name last. So what we call a “first name” is actually the “last name” in China. For example: I would be Miskulin Marty John, and our president would be Obama Barak Husein.