Alumni Reunion – Lotus Educational Foundation

  lotus-logo

alumni

november 6thinvited

ALUMNI REUNION

LOTUS EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION

You are cordially invited to Lotus Educational Foundation’s alumni reunion in Washington D.C! Take this exciting opportunity to catch up with old friends, share your experiences with other past students, and learn what Lotus Educational Foundation has been up to in the international community!

Refreshments will be served. You are more than welcome to bring along any family or friends interested in Lotus to share in the festivities as well. Please RSVP to Lisa Sheng, Program Director, at lisa@lotuseducation.org or 408.996.1929 before October 30th.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Location: Address: 3125 Cathedral Avenue, NW, Washington D.C
Time: November 6th, 3 – 6 pm
Contact: Lisa Sheng, Program Director, at lisa@lotuseducation.org or 408.996.1929.

Alumni Reunion

While living in Beijing has left no shortage of excitement, I will admit that I feel a pang of home sickness when I think about the next couple weeks back in the states. Halloween, while certainly one of the most bizarre holidays both in origin and celebration, never fails to disappoint.

Furthermore, Lotus Educational Foundation has some excitement going on back in the home in the next couple weeks as well. The Alumni Reunion, which is being held on November 6th in Washington D.C., sounds like it will be an exciting opportunity for students who have studied with Lotus before. Having studied with Lotus before and now working as an intern for them here in Beijing, I would love to be able to attend.

I would encourage alumni to attend if possible. Family and friends are welcome to come along and dinner will be provided. Check out the invitation by just clicking on the link below!

Alumni Reunion Invitation

A Trip to the Senior Centre

My first volunteer excursion with Lotus involved a trip to the nearby senior centre by bus to visit, chat with and generally entertain the elderly folks who live there.

This particular day was chosen as it was the 重阳节 (Chóngyáng jié – Double Ninth Festival), which as of 1989 has also been known as ‘Seniors’ Day’, when the elderly should be visited and should enjoy themselves.

The first activity upon our arrival was to give balloons to the elderly and play with them. The game essentially involved hitting the balloons back and forth, and whether they were cherishing them, hitting them back or just popping the balloons, the elderly folks seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Next came the entertainment. Each volunteer performed a routine for the elderly spectators. One was Taijiquan, one was a violin recital, a few people demonstrated their superb solo vocal skills while I myself joined in with a group rendition of 北京欢迎你 (Beijing Welcomes You). It wasn’t only us that performed however, as a few of the elderly folks also gave a performance of some kind. Following this, it was cake time, as all the seniors with birthdays in the last three months were wished happy birthday with a huge cake and celebration – a truly heart-warming sight.

After this the seniors retired to their rooms, and it was time for the volunteers to visit each room with gifts of bananas and apples. They all seemed thoroughly thrilled to see us, and I even had the pleasure of meeting one lady who said she 110 years old!!

 

Trains, Travels, and Touring

In the United States, trains are hardly a viable means of transportation. They tend to be expensive and slow, scattered sparingly throughout the country (and especially the West coast), a sharp contrast to trains here in China. With the National Holiday and a week free from work and school, I accompanied one of my classmates south to 扬州 (Yángzhōu) to spend the week visiting with her family. We hopped on a train late Monday night and in the soft comfort of our soft sleeper reservations, we slept as our train sped for ten hours across the countryside. We woke up to a bright Tuesday morning in Yángzhōu, and after a casual cup of coffee as our train pulled into the station, we spend the next several days loafing throughout the city.

Yángzhōu was beautiful, set alongside rivers and lakes that strolled casually through the city. While large compared to the average city back home, Yángzhōu was without the sprawling, endless metropolitan feeling of Beijing. The people to the south were very friendly, but foreigners were thin on the grounds, so the casual point and exclamation of “外国人!” (foreigner!) was not uncommon. Also, the people speak a different dialect of Chinese, which meant that there were times where I had absolutely no idea what was going on (opposed to my usual feeling of being only 75% in the dark).

Again, because of the holiday, everywhere we went for a glimpse of the sights was teaming with people. Generally, though, having spent the last several weeks familiarizing myself with masses and crowds in boarding the subway every morning during rush hour, I wasn’t much bothered. We toured around Yángzhōu, hopped a bus over to Nánjīng to see those sights, and then on our last day of holiday, we went about two hours outside the city to Zhōu zhuāng, which has been called the “Venice of China.” It was absolutely gorgeous, a little town with canals sweeping all throughout the town, boats casually meandering by, and seafood everywhere you looked.

We hopped back on the train home and arrived back in Beijing bright and early on Saturday morning, just in time to get to class. When you have seven days of rest in China, apparently it is customary that you have seven days of work to follow. Albeit, while school on a Saturday and Sunday are oddly foreign, it was worth the exciting holiday a hundred times over!

Holiday Excursions

The first week in October offers a brief reprieve from the every day hustle and bustle to life in the city. The 国庆节 (guóqíng jiè), which follows National Day on October 1st, is a weeklong holiday celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Everyone here gets a week off work and school in honor the anniversary, and so I was looking forward to a week full of exciting outings now that I had the chance to travel.

My holiday began with an excursion with my host family. Without any idea what was in store for the day, (while I continue to make great strides in learning Chinese, some things are still just lost in translation – so I generally just peruse through the every day here with a sense of humor that gets me by), I accompanied my host family off early in the morning. We ended up going to a National Park of sorts, where my host sister met up with two of her classmates. Together with the three of them and their mothers, the lot of us started roving through the wilderness, hiking up the mountainside through the trees and scrambling over rocks.

The people were out in droves in honor of National Week, so everywhere you went it was very crowded. Even so, we had an absolutely marvelous time. My host sister (her chosen English name is Cindy) and her friends and I chatted all throughout the day. At first, Cindy’s friends were very shy to practice their English (despite constant encouragement from their mothers). However, after some prodding and poking with the right questions, and eagerly showing them that butchering a language is nothing to be embarrassed about through my own use of Chinese, they were excited to have a go with their English and wouldn’t stop talking!

I find that these are some of my favorite moments in living with a host family. My constant exposure to Chinese has improved my 口语 (kǒuyǔ – my speaking ability) and yet, at the same time, it has given me a glimpse into every day life for people in China. It’s an absolutely extraordinary experience, and while it has its challenges, I find it ultimately extremely rewarding.

(“Climbing the mountain” with my host sister and her friends)

Homestay in Beijing – the food!

It is fairly safe to say that eating in Chinese restaurants in the West does not make you an expert on Chinese cuisine. Although I knew that the food I would be eating out in China would be a far cry from the ‘Chinese’ food I was accustomed to in London, I did not realize quite how far.

In Beijing, and indeed in most of China, it is not customary for each person at the dinner table to have only their own plate of food to eat from. Rather, each person has their own small bowl of  主食 (Zhǔshí – staple food of rice or another form of grain), and the  菜 (Cài – dishes of vegetables and meat and everything else!) are placed in the middle of the table for everyone to tuck into. I have to say that to me this form of eating not only seems more sociable and friendly, but makes much more sense, as rather than having a set amount of food to tackle each meal, you can pick and choose what you eat and how much of it you eat depending on your appetite at the time.

I never imagined that I could eat something three times a day without becoming sick of it, as in the UK I guess we don’t have anything that you could call a 主食 (Zhǔshí). However, I guess being in China has changed that, as I’ve been eating rice at least twice a day and have never once felt sick of it. This may be because of the wonderful variety of all the different  菜 (Cài) that my homestay family prepare every evening. They keep asking me which of the various dishes they have prepared for me is my favourite, but it’s impossible to answer as there are so many and I can honestly say every single one is fantastic. Hardly a single dish I’ve had with my host family has been similar to what I would normally eat in England. This is most apparent to me when I think of the vegetables. Back home growing up vegetables was always something you ate because you had to, and it usually consisted of plain steamed broccoli or something else equally bland. In China it’s a different story, as every vegetable dish is flavoured wonderfully and has its own unique tastes.

I’ve no doubt that when the time comes to return to England, the food is going to be sorely missed, perhaps above all else.