La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
June 2008 Newsletter
Duan Wu Jie greetings from LSSC Changjiao
Peace and Joy is within you.
Today is Sunday 8th June or the 5th day of the 5th moon of the Chinese Lunar calendar. Normally, a Sunday morning is a busy morning for me as I teach two tuition classes of about 60 students each and one class of about 30 students. The variation in the number of students is unavoidable as some schools run additional classes on Saturdays and some on Sundays. Anyway, this is an easy morning for me as LSSC declared a holiday because it is “Duan Wu Jie”. Duan Wu Jie is commonly known worldwide as the Dragon Boat Festival. This year it is reintroduced and declared a national holiday in China, second in importance only to the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year. Duan Wu Jie is brought back into focus in China by the Chinese Central Government because it commemorates a great patriotic Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, to inspire the spirit of loyalty and nationalism.
The legend has it that during the reign of Emperor Huai (Warring States 475-221BC) there was much corruption among many officials in the Chu State. Qu Yuan who was also an official fought hard against corruption and so earned the ire of the corrupted court officials who influenced the emperor to dismiss and exile him. Qu Yuan then traveled extensively to teach and write about his ideas of nationhood and good governance. Among his many writings are “Li Sao” (The Lament), “Jiu Zhang (The Nine Chapters) and “Wen Tian” (The Precious Word) which are masterpieces and invaluable sources of information about ancient Chinese culture. When the Chu State was defeated by the Qin State, Qu Yuan ended his own life committing suicide by drowning in the Miluo River. Fishermen raced to the river to search for his body. Unable to find his body, they threw “zong zi” (glutinous rice dumplings) to feed the fishes in the hope that they could recover his body. Thus was born the tradition of the dragon boat race and the eating of zong zi on the 5th day of the 5th moon, the annual anniversary of Qu Yuan’s death.
Actually the festival mood was already very much in the air two or three days ago. Families worked together to make the “zong zi”. For Malaysians and Singaporeans, the zong zi is our “bak zhang”. In Changjiao, it is customary for the host family to prepare lunch as the tying, boiling and steaming the zong zi takes a whole day. Thank God, I got invited to share the lunches as the villagers knew that I taught my last regular school hours lesson on Wednesday 4th June. At lunch on Thursday, one of the ladies in Baijiang made the remark that it was hard to invite me over for a meal. I assured everyone that I always accept the first invitation and will not change, no matter who invites me later on. It was then someone suggested that in order to avoid the discomfort of “failing to invite laoshi” that I fly a red flag on top of my house so that villagers will know that I already have an invitation for a meal. One villager even suggested that I fly a green flag when I need a meal! I was booked for lunches and dinners for four consecutive days from Friday 6th to Monday 9th June.
This morning I went over to visit a villager to have a cup of morning tea. As I was on my way another villager came over to ask me over for lunch. I had to decline as I was already booked. As we sat down to have tea, my host also asked me to join them for lunch and again I had to decline. So the topic turned to food. My host said that his main dish is chicken while the villager who invited me earlier said that her main dish was duck. Then the conversation drifted to the best way to cook a chicken and then the best way to prepare a duck. I then casually suggested that the two families of four persons each join together to share a meal. They thought it was funny saying that nobody does that on a festival day. I have been trying to promote “pot luck” lunches or dinners for some time without success as the entrenched idea here is that if one cannot afford to host a lunch or dinner, then one should not invite any guest over for a meal. Amidst the laughter at such a ridiculous idea, the daughter of the man said that she would love to eat duck and asked if the lady would bring some over. To my surprised, they eventually agreed to cook separately but eat together in the man’s house. Well, common sense does prevail if people talk about customs and traditions in a realistic and practical way.
As usual I returned to Hongkong for Holy Week and Easter on 18th March. I was delayed as workers doing renovation works at LSSC in preparation for this summer’s English Reading Programme did not do a good job and I had to ask the contractor to redo it. The physical improvements created extra space at LSSC. Now we have a proper dinning hall and ample space for the temporary kitchen during the summer. The improvements also free space within LSSC itself. If we can keep the number of students down to around 300 we run the summer programme right here within LSSC itself. We plan to issue limited application forms in order to control the number of students applying to join the summer programme. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully this plan works and “the invasion” of students of last year will not take place.
On 15th April, I had a surprised call from Mr. Kok of the Overseas Chinese Relations Department in Dabu. He informed me that Dato' Yong Seng Yeow, had just landed at Meixian Airport and was on his way to visit me before returning to his home village of Bai Hou. Dato' Yong Seng Yeow is an old boy of SFI Melaka. That was Dato Yong and wife’s second visit to LSSC. Thank you for visiting. Your insistence on visiting “your laoshi (teacher)” before going back to your home village gave me “big face”. My status in the county of Dabu is up a notch!
I traveled with the Bishop of Meixian to see the construction of a primary school block and recreational yard in Wufa on 24th April. The Bishop of Meixian is the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of Wufa Primary School. Brother Visitor, with the support of Hongkong Lasallians, made a donation to help in the construction. The St.Vincent de Paul Society of Hongkong is a partner in this education service effort. The official opening is scheduled to take place on Saturday 20th June 2008.
As you all know, China was caught off-guard earlier in the year by the extreme cold conditions that iced up air, rail and road links and disrupted power supply in many parts of China. Then the earthquake in Wenchuan struck at 2.28 p.m. on May 11th, sending shocks of disbelieve and grieve throughout China and among communities of overseas Chinese worldwide. This time round, the response was swift and admirable. The top leaders of China were on their way to the disaster zone within two hours and organized rescue operations were mounted within four hours with the deployment of more than 100 thousand People’s Liberation Army personnel. Overseas Chinese communities also responded immediately rushing material and financial aid to assist the rescue efforts. For the first time in modern China, local donations to the disaster fund came thick and fast in quantum that is truly unbelievable. The sad truth that some school buildings were poorly constructed resulted in the disproportionate number deaths of students and teachers. In an unprecedented move, China’s TV stations gave all day live coverage.
LSSC held a commemorative service on Saturday May 31st. A 20 minutes slide show with Chinese captions recording the disaster, the rescue efforts and students survivors studying in make-shifts classrooms was used to introduce the service. Most of the children were visibly moved. I used the occasion to help them realize how fortunate they are to have a family and an opportunity to study. Most students declared that they contribute a bit of their pocket money to the national disaster fund.
At the end of the service, four primary students came up to thank me for the slide show and what I said to them. Then one of them asked me, “What day is tomorrow?” “Sunday” I replied. Another then asked, “What date is tomorrow?” “1st of June” I responded. “What’s special on 1st June?” the third asked. “I don’t know. You tell me.” I said. With one voice they cried “Aiiyah, laoshi (teacher) is so dumb. It’s International Children’s Day.” “So?” “You must celebrate Children’s Day for us!” So, LSSC celebrated Children’s Day on Sunday 1st June. The lessons of the day centred on the reading of poems and singing of songs that had been taught previously. It was a day of relaxation and fun. Each child received a bag of goodies.
Preparations are underway for this summer’s English Reading Programme which is scheduled to begin on 14th July and ends on 7th August, a day before the beginning of the Beijing Olympics on 8th August 2008. A problem is looming in the horizon as stricter restrictions on Visas for China is in place for security reason because of the Summer Beijing’s Olympic Games. This is causing anxiety to overseas volunteers from Malaysia, England and the US. I sent letters of invitation countersigned by our local Political Secretary to help facilitate the Visa applications. I am keeping my fingers crossed in the hope that the volunteers will not be prevented from joining us because of Visa problems.
Oh yes, I had my first encounter with the traffic police three days ago while riding my three-wheeler to town. I was just about to make a right turn when a traffic police patrol car cut in front of me and stopped. I was not traveling fast and so it was very easy for me to stop. I sat in my little bun car and after what seems to be ages at that time an officer got out of the patrol car and walked towards me. He came by the window and questioned, “Is this car registered?” I replied, “No” then pointing to the road tax I continued “I paid the road tax. Can you please help me to register this car?” I could see that he was taken aback by my response. He then asked “Do you have a driving license?” “Yes” I said and added “but I do not think you can read it.” He looked puzzled then and after a moment of hesitation asked “What kind of a driving license do you have?” I replied “Malaysian”. He took a good look at me and breaking into a smile said “Oh, you are Liao Laoshi of Changjiao aren’t you?” I nodded my head politely. He then asked where I bought the car, how much did it cost and if it was economical to run it. Finally he said “Drive carefully Liao laoshi” nodded his head with a smile on his face and walked away. I passed the test! With this happy ending anecdote I end this report. The next will be about Summer 2008. Until then, take care and God bless. Please keep us in your prayers.
As always with love in the service of youth and nation through DLS,
p.s. On 12th June Mr. Andrew Law and his cousin Mr. Desmond Law paid a visit to LSSC. Andrew’s wife Ms Kim Yuen, a member of La Salle College PTA , visited LSSC last summer. Thank you for supporting this small Lasallian outreach mission in Changjiao.
All good things must
come to an end...