Easter goes unnoticed here. Not even a single chocolate egg or Easter bunny, let alone anything to do with Jesus and resurrection. The local Catholic and other ‘official’ churches do hold Easter services today, though. Unfortunately we are at work and will not be able to attend.
FLAMES OF LOVE IN MY CLASS
I had the best class so far today. It was a group of eleven 13 year olds and we learned about different occupations. We played some games throughout the class and I gave the winning team some painted eggs – they were not impressed at all. Tea-boiled eggs are a very typical Xi’an breakfast, so I thought they would love it. I may have hyped up the prize too much.
Do you remember the love triangle I told you about in this class? Well, it’s getting more complicated. I put the guy in the centre of this amusing affair into a team with a very good and quiet girl. By the end of the lesson she had written her phone number on his arm. I threatened to tell his girlfriend and he begged me not to. I love these classes. It’s not just teaching, teaching, teaching; we have a lot of fun and they are actually really talented kids. I will keep you posted on how the soap opera turns out.
Next week is the Qingming festival, which is a day when the Chinese honour their ancestors and welcome spring. On this day whole families visit their dead ones’ tombs and sweep them. They spend time at the tombs praying, eating and chatting with their families. This tradition is very honoured by farmers as this marks their time of spring harvest, but it is also very big in big cities like Xi’an, so the kids get a day off at their school. Although, they never really have a day off, because a day off during the week means they have to go to school on a Saturday to make up for the day off.
Picnic at the tomb tradition reminds me of the Russian Orthodox tradition of eating at graves. I remember several times of going to my grandfather’s and great-grandmother’s grave and meeting my great-grandmother’s friends there, eating some chocolate. I like the fact that the Chinese people, alike Estonians, visit the graves/tombs of their family and friends and keep them looking nice and tidy.
People in freer parts of China like Hong Kong also honour the victims of Tiananmen Square on this day. This, of course, is not mentioned in mainland China. In Taiwan the holiday has a fixed date of 5th of April to commemorate the death of Chiang Kai-Shek, the Kuomintang leader.
WHAT DO THEY THINK?
I’ve been speaking to some Chinese friends of mine about the recent Chinese history. The Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square or hunger never happened in China according to the local history books. However, their parents don’t let these events to be forgotten and tell their kids about tough times in their childhood. I can only speak based on a couple of people I’ve spoken to, but they seemed quite OK talking about this. They did speak very quietly and were quite diplomatic when expressing their opinion. The younger generation (born after the Cultural Revolution) holds the ancient Chinese culture in great esteem. While they love everything Western, they also love their own design, music, films etc. This may be slightly helped by the fact that the Chinese government only allows releasing 25 Western films per year and heavily controls what the TV and radio stations play.
We were invited to one of our friend Ben’s house to have some homemade food and to learn to make noodles.
Making noodles is actually very easy. You make the dough, cut small pieces of it and stretch them into long thin or thick noodles, however you like them. Ben’s mum cooked 4 or 5 other dishes. It’s a general rule that when you go to someone’s house or when someone asks you out for dinner you have to offer your guest at least four different dishes: meat, vegetables and soup have to be represented. All the food was delicious as usual.
While we were eating Ben’s mum told us that she grew up in a large family and they never had food to spare. They had to resort to some pretty grim survival choices like eating a whole dog. Bearing this story in mind, the food waste in today’s China seems unbelievable. There is food literally everywhere and so much of it gets thrown away. I myself have thrown away whole bags of noodles just because there was too much. Surprisingly, we found out she learned English at school in the 70s. The foreign language at schools used to be Russian until 1969 when the Sino-Russian border disagreement ignited.
We finally visited a park in Xi’an. It was a beautiful hot day, so the park had quite a few visitors. There are lots of examples of traditional Chinese gardens with rocks, temples and cherry blossoms.
We went on a paddle boat on a lake, where people can also go fishing. We saw a lot of people practising musical instruments from the sax to traditional Chinese instruments and some people singing Peking opera. There are areas for people who just want to lie in a hammock and sleep, playgrounds for kids and exercise machines for older people.
The park is on the ground of the Qing palace, of which only one building remains. As always, you can buy a lot of tacky items that we would call ‘made in China rubbish.’
A little fellow we saw in the park:
And this is outside the park:
IN OTHER NEWS
We are still volunteering at the Yellow River Charity, giving out soup and dumplings to the homeless. There are some lovely unfortunate people who come there to get their soup. I wish I spoke more Chinese to speak to them and find out why they are there.
We booked tickets for our May holiday. We will be going to The Philippines for a beach-eat-read-relax holiday. I cannot wait to breathe fresh air and see the sun in a non-metallic coloured sky.
Listen to this song by Song Zu Ying and Celine Dion. They performed it at the Spring Festival Gala. It’s about a beautiful jasmine flower and we learned to sing it in our Chinese class.