Chronicles of Nanyang – The Spring Semester
This article series is from a Hills Learning student, Loraine, who took our intensive course over the summer of 2012. She writes about living in China and her experiences learning about the Chinese language and culture.
So much has happened since my last update, both for me personally and in the world. My heart goes out to everyone who was affected by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. It’s hard to be outside of the U.S. at times like this, and I thank all of you who sent me news articles and personal associations of this devastating event.
The last time I wrote, it was just before the Jewish holiday of Passover. Due to my work schedule, I decided not to go to a seder this year, but made the holiday special for myself here in Nanyang. Since I received two kilograms of matzah, I felt the only way to add flavor to it was with a smear of butter. This would not be news almost anywhere else, but it is in China, where butter is not used in the local cuisine. In fact, my local supermarket carries only one brand of it. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed the butter, and it definitely made the matzah go down more easily. But the real challenge was to make it through the whole holiday without eating noodles, which are forbidden during Passover. It wasn’t easy, but I survived!
Shortly after Passover, I returned to Shanghai, this time for a gathering of Jews living in Asia. As it turns out, there are a lot of us, mostly from the U.S., England, France, Israel, and India. I enjoyed the study sessions, Middle Eastern food, entertainment, and the many wonderful people I met. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Chinese professor of Jewish history gave us a tour of the area of Shanghai where many Jews lived during World War II. The Chinese admitted them freely, saving thousands of lives, and providing a place of refuge until they could move on to resume life as usual.
Spring semester has been filled with holidays, such as Tomb Sweeping Day, Labor Day (May 1st) and Dragon Boat Festival. To add to this, my university also held three days of competitions known as the sports meetings. Students from the various academic departments competed against each other in running, jumping, and relay races, while the rest of the students cheered them on from the sidelines. I’m attaching a photo of the opening ceremonies.
Another sign of spring is the appearance of fresh pineapple, beautifully cut and mounted on a stick, ready for eating. It’s fun to watch the vendors with their special knives carefully remove all of the inedible parts; the result is nothing less than a work of art. A photo is attached.
And last but not least, I marked my birthday on April 19th. No celebration would be complete without cake, but ordering one was a real test of my Mandarin skills. I had to specify what I wanted and when I wanted it; after all, getting a birthday cake a day late is not acceptable! Fortunately, I was able to communicate adequately enough, and was rewarded with a beautiful cake, right on time. The cake even came with a supply of paper plates, a knife for cutting it, forks, and candles. But the biggest news of all was that of the eight foreign teachers I work with, one has the same birthday as mine. Photos of the celebration are attached.
As always, I send you my best wishes for a spring time of sweetness and joy.
From Nanyang, China,