by Jerry from China – Bachelor of Social Work, Logan campus
I have been in Australia for nearly five years and most Lunar New Year was spent with people from my own community. However, 2013 was the most impressive Chinese New Year ever spent in Australia. I had the opportunity to share my culture and traditional customs with people from Australia and all over the world thanks to Student Linx’s two day retreat for new Griffith Mates. The retreat was intended to establish team and leadership skills. It was such a great coincidence that these two days just happened to be the last day of the Year of Dragon (Lunar New Year’s Eve ) and the first day of the Year of Snake. Normally, the Lunar New Year was celebrated with family reunion. Some of our Chinese students were not able to be with their families but spent with this newly formed Griffith Mates team.
The Lunar New Year is as important as Christmas for Westerners among Chinese people around the world. In particular for our international students, we are thousands miles away from our home and family. There would be stronger homesick feeling during these festival times. But it seems that we felt welcomed and warmed by the environment and atmosphere created by Student Linx during the retreat.
The day before the retreat I asked Sam and Andrew from Student Linx what was organised for the retreat and expressed how glad I was that this would be my first time to spend Lunar New Year with such diverse group. I mentioned one of the traditional custom of making dumpling during the New Year’s Eve and asked whether we could do that during the retreat. I was concerned that we might not have access to the kitchen and the ingredients. It was confirmed we would have access to everything required.
By hearing this news, I was so thrilled that we might make hundreds of dumplings for nearly 50 people and they would be eager to learn the dumpling making processes. It might sound weird that I undertook such enormous amount of project but incredibly thrilled about this. In the Chinese tradition that people tend to enjoy the atmosphere of crowed and we are bustling the excitement. Thus, I can’t wait to see what would be like to create the New Year’s feeling while we are in Australia with these new Griffith Mates from all over the world!
I called up with another Chinese friend (also a Griffith Mate). As we initiated the idea of making dumplings and generating the New Year’s atmosphere, we started to prepare for the fillings and be ready for that special night. Despite the fact that chopping the meat and vegetables into tiny pieces and cleaning afterwards was exhausting, we were excited that we would be able to demonstrate our tradition and share our cultures with this diverse group. It is likely that this might be their first time to try the hand-made dumplings and spend their first Lunar New Year’ Eve.
After a day of fully packed activities and games, we were about to begin the most exciting part of the night. As we pulled out the table and plates, people gathered around the table and enthusiastic about learning making dumplings. We showed them the steps of wrapping the fillings with pastry and informed them that the fillings should not be unfolded when they are in the boiling water. If it turns out to be sticky together all the way along to your mouth, then it will be a triumph for your dumplings. I was impressed that people can learn making dumplings in such a short time and resulted in such beautiful products. Of course, there were some failures and interesting shapes before they got the gist of making dumplings. It was fun and worthy trying though.
One of the most interesting things was when we ran out of pastry and still had lots of fillings left. Since we were in a national park, the mobile phones had really terrible reception. In order to make the use of the leftovers, I called my grandma in China and asked for instructions to making pastry. During that time, Elwin (the Chinese Griffith Mates) asked me would you miss your family while we are in this place. It would be unusual to say that I was not missing my family; however, people around me had given such good company that made me feel like home. At the time of writing this article, I can still recall the moment that I was running around the kitchen and hustling around them. My memories were filled with happiness and appreciation of their warmth accompany.
Later, we came up an idea that we could learn different languages of saying Happy New Year when it struck 12 o’clock of Lunar New Year. We taught them to say “Gong Xi Fa Cai” and “Xin Nian Kuai Le” as well as learning other Asian languages. It’s just amazing that we had a quality time to share and exchange different cultures. Interestingly, I found out that not only China celebrates Lunar New Year but also some other Asian countries, such as Korea and Vietnam.
Apart from eating, we also have the opportunity to teach them play mah-jong which is one of the most popular games in China. Most importantly, there are a lot fun in it and these people became such a huge fan of it. It was happy to learn that Student Linx had prepared mah-jong for us. I was so surprised that Student Linx is so considerate in many aspects. I am really appreciate Student Linx to provide such fantastic opportunity for us to meet and learn from Griffith community.