Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Saturday, December 31, 2005

I'm writing an essay on new year!

Happy New Year! No time to write, so here's my homework ...

When we were first requested to provide written reflections on our experiences in China, I wondered what I would write. Now, after only four days in and around the Dongguan area, I am struggling to fit all of my impressions in such a small space.

The opportunity to come to China and see for myself where my family came from is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. That it has been so generously sponsored by the The Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau of Dongguan and that I can also share this experience with my brother, sister and fellow young New Zealand Chinese makes this trip absolutely priceless to me.

Initially, I had some reservations about visiting China as a virtual non-speaker of both Cantonese and Mandarin. However, as the departure date grew closer, my excitement grew to far outweigh my trepidation.

When we finally arrived in Dongguan, my first impressions were of massive size. The airport, roadways and buildings were all much larger than what we are used to in New Zealand. The vast numbers of people and vehicles, especially bicycles and motorbikes, made me wonder at the ability of locals to perform basic feats like driving and crossing the road. We have also been treated to a string of large banquet-style meals where somehow everything manages to be very different, but all delicious! Many of the dishes have been new to me, and I hope to sample them again before I return to New Zealand.

Despite the language barriers often present, the local Chinese have been phenomenal in welcoming us almost as they would do family. I have both enjoyed and been challenged by using my limited Cantonese to communicate. We had the unique opportunity to display aspects of New Zealand culture in a performance for Dongguan Gao Kup Zhong Shue. The friendliness of the students we met and the enthusiasm and support of the hundreds at the concert is something I will never forget.
We have also been lucky enough to sample a wide spectrum of Chinese culture by visiting several very impressive parks, museums and memorials, as well as attempting practical activities such as lion dancing, t’ai chi, kung fu, pottery, calligraphy and traditional dancing. As well as being educational, everything has been extremely enjoyable and I have been impressed by the dedication and hospitality of each of the teachers and masters who have so kindly trained us, a group of complete novices.

This journey has not only been a chance to search for my ancestral heritage. It is also an opportunity to meet people in today’s China, as well as New Zealand-born Chinese who share a similar upbringing to myself. My traveling companions have quickly turned into treasured new friends. It is almost as if our shared history is an unspoken bond. It is also comforting and encouraging to see young people with bi and tri-lingual skills. It gives me something to aim towards in my personal future.

I am writing with a full belly, calligraphy ink on my hands and muscles aching from kung fu, dancing and running up pagoda steps. I smile at the memory of the nervousness that was dispelled by the applause of a thousand middle school students as I stood on a stage with my new friends. I have learned, seen, eaten, laughed, sung, danced and experienced more than I ever imagined possible in four days, and China still has so much more of herself to show me.


helen said...

Fantastic Wendy - I envy you all. Can't wait to see the pictures nad hear more. Safe travels to the Villages today. Hope you find Eva's photo.

helen said...

got your message that you spoke to some old people in Gualian village and got photos of Dad's house. Hopefully you made it to hargee as well. The time has gone so fast. Soon you will be off to Shanghai.