Archive for April, 2007

Published April 5th, 2007 by Mliesie

Tomb Sweeping Festival

Today is Tomb Sweeping Festival in China. The day the ancestors are honoured… People celebrate by having a meal with their family and eating cake with a special stuffing. If possible they will go to the family tomb and burn piles of (fake) paper money, so the ancestors will be wealthy in the afterlife. Ofcourse fireworks can also be heard. My colleague asked me if we ever ‘honour’ our ancestors and I was almost ashamed having to say no. Family, relatives, life and death, all of it is cherished and celebrated in various ways in China. The longer I am here, the more I realise we lack of some nice traditions or let go of them over the years. Ofcourse China isn’t perfect, I would be the last one to say so, but there are definitely some traditions we could learn from.

Back to Tomb Sweeping Festival!!! 

In Yulin it is said that when it rains on Tomb Sweeping Festival a month of sandstorms will follow. Guess what…. When I woke up this morning and looked out of my window the streets were soaking wet! Oh yeah, I am ready for the sandstorms!

Actually…I’ve already survived my first sandstorm and the second. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but my contacts (the ones I wear) weren’t too happy with it. It all starts with a strong (cold) wind, then the sky turns reddish and dusty, and suddenly there’s loads of sand in the air. As they are doing a lot of construction on the College Campus with mountains of sand around everywhere, one can imagine the density of sand in the air around here. As soon as you breathe in it feels like you took a scoop of sand, as soon as you blink your eyes it feels like there’s sandpaper on the back of your eyelids. Yuk! It was in my ears, my nose, on my back, in my bag, in my shoes, between my toes, any imaginable place possible. But like I said….it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Unfortunately the students told me this was just a “so, so” sandstorm. Hmmpf, more fun to look forward to.

During my second sandstorm I was out for a walk. As I left the house I decided not to close the windows; the sky was bright blue as usual and the sun was shining. It didn’t last for 20 minutes though and then the sandstorm began. Want to know what the house looked like when I got back home again…? Picture a sandcastle on the beach, but then inside out! Naaah, it wasn’t THAT bad, but I could have built a nice little sandcastle with the sand I swept of the floor and my furniture. Oh well, just one month of sandstorms ahead after today!

I survived the real sandstorms, but as we are working on our newspaper ‘the SandStorm’, I’m wondering if I will survive putting this one together in time. It involves getting students to write appropriate articles, taking pictures of various events, getting students involved in the making of the newspaper (it has to be sustainable, remember?), correcting the articles, having everything typed out, going to the printer’s, etc., etc. Loads of work, but very much appreciated by the students. The only thing they don’t appreciate…..? The name of the newspaper, ‘SandStorm’. In the meantime I’ve also set up a women’s basketball team. Within a week’s time over 20 female students signed up!! The basketball courts are always taken by the male students; as of coming Saturday they have to make way for the women’s team(s)….. Who knows, in time we might be able to set up matches between women’s teams of all departments.

It seems this 2nd term is going to be a very busy one with various activities going on in the English department, another 20 (at least!!) for students in all departments, all the students I seem to have inherited from Kate and Ellie, 4th graders whom I don’t teach and never have suddenly show up, VSO National Conference, visitors from Holland, visits to VSO colleagues, May holiday planning, etc., etc. Oh, and ofcourse my Chinese lessons, my Sunday hikes I have started again, cooking with my students (we still have a noodle contest coming up in my house..), and many more fun things to do.

Life is good. Today, I again realised how happy I am here. I have some really good student friends, I get along well with my colleagues with whom I have more and more fun as well, the people on the market know me and say hello, the people in the little restaurants I visit frequently always seem to be happy to see me. What more could a person wish for, living in another country and having to deal with a completely different culture and language….. As one of my students said ‘I am a lucky dog!’.

Take care and enjoy life.