Postcards from China is a documentary series that was produced for South Africa’s eTV, first aired in 2011. “The Art of Learning” (below) is one of four episodes, and follows the pursuits of three South Africans living in Beijing and Shanghai between 2008 and 2011, one of whom is me.
This is a presentation I gave on 1 February 2018 at the “Africa-China/China-Africa mobilities” workshop at the University of Cologne. In Vacation in the Third Space: Chinese tourists travelling on a European cruise to African islands, I ponder the issue of cross-cultural communication and understanding, drawing on the concept of “Third Space” (Bhabha, 1994). In the case presented, Chinese tourists, the Asian staff on the cruise ship, and residents of the islands visited (Mauritius, Seychelles, and the Reunion island) were able to create a ‘Third Space’ and engage in genuine conversations, despite cultural differences and ignorance.
Twenty-four year-old He Lingling just spent her second Chinese New Year away from China. It was also her second Spring Festival in her temporary home in Cape Town, where she has been working as a teacher at the Confucius Institute at the University of Cape Town for the past year and a half. Although she badly misses her family and her hometown in a small town in Sichuan at this time of year, she has also found a sense of belonging among new friends and colleagues in a Cape Town suburb, her home away from home.
I asked Lingling what she misses most about Chinese New Year, and what her last two holidays in Cape Town have been like.
Isabella Fang is showing off a range of festive red and gold envelopes adorned with the character fu – or “wealth” – in her Chinese curio shop on Cape Town’s Atlantic coast. It is the day before Chinese New Year’s eve, or Spring Festival, when red envelopes (hong bao) filled with money are traditionally given as gifts to children and older relatives.
An estimated 385 million people are returning to their hometowns in China this year from wherever in the world they are working or studying, making it the largest human migration in the world.
Part II follows Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part I, a letter that was written by Cape Town-based Mr. Chen to his son C.S.Y., who came to South Africa in 2015 to study at a local high school.
C.S.Y., my son:
You are given a healthy body by your parents. But if you don’t exercise properly, your body will weaken. Do you still remember what I used to say to you repeatedly when you were a kid? “I am a real man.” I am glad that you are equipped with a good body that can qualify you as a man. But your inner self is still lacking. It takes an eagle many failures and attempts over a long period of time to be able to fly high in the sky. You can continue your life living like a pregnant woman, but if you want to stand strong in the world and go wherever you want to go, you must have a healthy body and mind. Continue reading “Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part II of II”
This letter was written by Cape Town-based Mr. Chen to his son C.S.Y., who came to South Africa in 2015 to study at a local high school. Mr. Chen sent his son the letter while C.S.Y. was back in China visiting his mom and grandparents in his hometown in Sichuan during the 2017-2018 school holidays. Mr. Chen stayed behind in South Africa for work.
Permission was given by Mr. Chen to translate and publish part of the letter on WhoKou.
C.S.Y., my son:
How are your holidays going at home? How do you feel about seeing your grandparents? People say that you cannot buy time with gold. Time flies, and here we are – you have become a grown man! When you first came to South Africa, I set a goal for you to master the English language. You have spent 15 months in South Africa, but how much English have you learnt? You seem to have spent far more time on computer games than learning the language.
Teacher Liu’s Intermediate Chinese class was due to start five minutes ago, but there’s no sign of him or any of his students. The University of Zambia’s Confucius Institute is growing quiet as the afternoon descends on Lusaka.
Just then, a short, stocky man with Emporio Armani emblazoned across a maroon sweater strolls into the lobby with a sling bag on his shoulder. “Are you Teacher Liu?” I ask. “Yes…” he replies, with something between a guilty and a naughty expression on his face.
There and then: Places and moments that shaped my here and now – Part III of III
Berlin, Germany, 2014
It started to rain when I arrived at the Berlin Wall, so I sat down at a cafe nearby. In the past few days, I had been randomly checking out segments of the Berlin Wall here and there, but in front of the cafe, I saw that one part of it was original, and protected as a historical site.
This is a presentation I made on 20 November at the annual Africa-China Journalists Forum at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa. It describes the investigation that took me to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania to be a fly on the wall in the classrooms where China’s Ministry of Education is helping to shape the way people think about the world’s next superpower.
There and then: Places and moments that shaped my here and now – Part II of III
Beijing, China, 1988
1988 was the Year of the Dragon. Chinese people believe that the dragon is a wonderful mascot that represents royalty, authority, and prosperity. My parents were probably among those who desperately wanted a dragon baby of good luck, rather than an energetic rabbit born a year earlier, or a sophisticated snake born a year later.