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Habibi!! (Arabic word meaning my beloved) This was the usual greeting I got every time I stepped into my Putonghua class. What a change to the mornings at my old school, when students would run across the playground shouting “Mr Man!” Both are extremely endearing and will always cheer me up.
Been back a little while from Guangzhou and overall it was a fantastic experience. My Putonghua is a little better, my French has been revised and now I know a few words of Arabic. Oh I ate some deep-fried worms too!
At first I had great apprehension of China (see previous post). Living in an over crowded city like Hong Kong can narrow one’s perspective of the people of China. Fortunately this trip banished those stereotypes and has hopefully made me a more accepting person. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone and stripped bare of your luxuries makes you see life from a more appreciative perspective. I still remember the first night in my mosquito ridden dorm and asking “what have I put myself in for?”
Things quickly got better and armed with some basic Putonghua I was ready to make friends. I was not alone in this, as most foreign students I met were studying with the purpose to learn Putonghua in order to improve their lives. I was amazed by the diversity of students. There were students from Yemen, Senegal, Togo and Madagascar to name a few.
Some students were from war torn countries and many had stories full of atrocities. Often I was speechless, when they were retelling these stories, as I could not find words to ease the silence or express my sympathy. These students were so strong and their great smiles and warmth will always give me strength.
Class was very interesting. The arabic speakers would sit on one side and the French speakers on the other side of class. Some classmates didn’t speak English at all, so I would sit in the middle and took the role of a very amateur translator. It was heaps of fun with lots of language learning and we used Chinese in a meaningful way.
One day after class, I played my first football match and it was then when I felt most settled. I love playing football and I was so excited to get a kick get around. My classmates joined me plus a few other people. We ended up having a massive match something like 16 vs 16!
It was literally moments after I took this photo that I started thinking about all the previous football matches I played in. All my old friends, my new friends and my family back home. I was hit by an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
I thought how lucky am I to have married the love of my life, to be playing a game that I love and to see many people from such diverse backgrounds and countries all smiling and sharing this moment. As Bruce Lee says, “under the sky, under the heavens there is but one family..”
Wouldn’t it be great if more often, people in the world from all different countries could settle their patriotic and religious differences and just enjoy life and appreciate the moment more.
WuShu training with Italian Marco and our trainer, Rock!
Moving outside from University I really appreciated the patience of the local shop owners. Many shop owners would deliberately speak Chinese slower, so it was easier to understand. My favourite shop owner was “Lao Ban” and he was the most kind-hearted and generous of them all. I would often go to his cafe to have extra tutoring lessons and very rarely would he charge me for coffees or drinks! Often if it was late he would even invite me for dinner cooked by his friend, “Robert Go.” Many occasions we would sit, eat dinner and get merry with a version of Maoutai or as they would say his cheaper cousin! So many laughs, stories and wonderful memories.
Moving even further away from Baiyun District and “the lung of the city” to Guangzhou city centre. There are some really attractive sights and also some ghastly industrial areas. Depends where you venture and the metro has expanded so much that most of Guangzhou is easily accessible.
As a takeaway, I would I highly recommend Guangdong University of Foreign Studies and Guangzhou as a wonderful introduction to learning Chinese, meeting people from diverse backgrounds and also as a short stay to understand the lifestyles of Guangdong people. I have so many happy memories that cannot all fit in this blog post. I hope my new friends have fond memories of me too, aswell as some of my old things which I didn’t need!
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!” This idiom really describes this whole experience so well for me. Although some parts of Guangzhou may not be the most attractive. I do believe you can find treasures in non materialistic things and unexpected places. I definitely found the most precious thing that treasure cannot afford; new friends, happiness and a huge appreciation of life outside my usual surroundings.
Stay tuned for my next post, which will feature more about TEA in Guangzhou. Goodnight!
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