FINDING MY WAY AROUND SHENZHEN - PART TWO        Close your eyes, close your eyes and get a surprise       






     This fun children’s chant could not be more apt in describing my experience in Shenzhen. With every day that comes by, and the shut-eyes in between, I find myself learning more about the environment that lays around me.  Despite the temperamental drenching rain, and the (at times) stifling heat that so threatens to envelop you, the Shenzhen air is clear and the sky is bright.  For those of you who are considering joining the au pair  programme , don’t forget your sun cream – you’re certainly going to need it once you’re here!  One of the most important things to do whilst you are out here, asides from maintaining your work and class duties, is to find and build a support system. I know personally that my experience would not have been the same had it not been for my fellow au pairs.  Wechat  is such a nifty tool to communicate with others, and it is something that I have definitely taken advantage of whilst I have been here.    Moments  for  wechat  users is what   stories are like for fans of Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram. Something you can use to show off your lesson plans, and travels. It’s a great way of keeping track of those around you, and of highlighting some of your favourite moments in China. It is these personal touches, aided by digital bytes, that are ubiquitous here. Certainly what surprised me when I arrived, was the seamless integration of technology that exist in everyday life here. For example, people can pay for meals or simple trinkets using  wechat  pay. You could come across, even the most remote shop in the city, and they would accept payment by mobile. Just scan the QR code, and you’re a-go.  It is with this in mind, that I am left wondering why Chinese stereotypes are not extended to technology. A city full of digital minds and hearts, Shenzhen certainly has a reputation for being the pinnacle of technological innovation (having been dubbed China’s answer to  Silicon Valley ), however the same could not be said of reputations elsewhere. China is opening its mind (and wallet) to the possibilities of open networks and constant trade of information and goods, and the rest of the world should take note. With one of the biggest e-commerce markets in the world, China is making a stand for modernity and connection.  It would, however, be a digression to delve further into the inner mechanisms of Chinese society. Certainly that can be left to the sociologists, anthropologists and economists of the world.  What are worth noting instead are the smaller connections that are forged within this community. Recently, I attended a KTV session (essentially a karaoke booth) with some other au pairs. From this, I had hoped for two things: to gain a finer appreciation for Chinese culture, and to stretch out my vocal chords. As I expected, I was able to achieve both objectives. There is something special about sharing a song with others. Amidst all your struggles and worries, you can left everything go in the middle of a Beyoncé or ABBA song. It was something I needed, and something I really enjoyed. Despite the lack of up-to-date English songs (unfortunately  Despacito  doesn’t count, however memorable and fun it may be), the booth was packed with throwbacks. Picture Jamilla and Natasha Beddingfield: absolute classics in their time, and you can begin to have some idea as to what the atmosphere was like that night.    It is from this high that I hope to embark on new adventures in my journey here in China. Warm air and picturesque surroundings – what more can you ask for?

Follow Ayah-Sofia's journey in Shenzhen as she experiences traditional Chinese activities and their equivelant to social media and all things technological... 

      端午节 ( Duānwǔjié) ' Dragon Boat Festival'     



              Crossing the finish line in Heiwai, Ronggui. (Photo: Caiguanaho)  



     In honour of the Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (May 30th 2017), here is a short excerpt from one of Qu Yuan’s most famous poems, translated by  Hugh Grigg .  離騷 ( Lí Sāo ) 'The Sorrow of Parting'  朝      發  軔   於  蒼    梧  兮,                                                                     Zhāo fā rèn yú cāngwú xī,                                                                    Taking off the brake, departing from Cangwu at dawn,   夕 餘  至  乎    縣    圃;                                                                               xī yú zhì hū xuán pǔ;                                                                                and before night falls, arriving at the Hanging Gardens;   欲   少    留  此 靈    瑣  兮,                                                                         yù shǎo liú cǐ líng sǒu xī,                                                                              I wish to stay at this gathering place of the spirits,    日 忽 忽  其 將     暮;                                                                                   rì hūhū qí jiāng mù;                                                                                    yet the sun is about to set;   吾   令    羲 和 弭  節 兮,                                                                             wú lìng Xīhé mǐ jié xī,                                                                                  I   order Xihe to slow to a trot;   望       崦   嵫 而  匆    迫;                                                                           wàng yān zī ér cōng pò;                                                                        gazing at Mt Yan and Mt Zi, yet not anxious to approach them;   路  漫   漫     其 脩   遠    兮,                                                                       lù mànmàn qí xiū yuǎn xī,                                                                          the road is boundless - cultivation so distant;   吾    將      上     下   而  求 索。                                                                   wú jiāng shàngxià ér qiúsuǒ.                                                                      I shall explore it from beginning to end.      What has Dragon Boat racing got to do with Qu Yuan?  Well, the story goes that Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC), poet and political advisor to King Huai of Chu, recommended that Chu ally itself with the enemy state Qi to defeat the mutual enemy state of Qin. However, in exile from Chu for allegations brought against him by corrupted ministers influencing the King, Qu Yuan hears that his beloved homeland has been defeated by Qin after King Huai did not take his advice. Upon hearing this news, he drowned himself in the Miluo river in an act of political martyrdom and in protest against political corruption.   After his drowning the locals are said to have rushed into the water in long boats, beating drums to scare evil spirits away and throwing rice wrapped in leaves into the water to prevent the fish from eating him. Another version is that they threw rice to feed Qu Yuan's spirit but it kept getting intercepted by catfish the size of dragons. So, a few years after his death, Qu Yuan appeared and told them to wrap the rice in leaves. Either way, at the Dragon Boat Festival people race long boats, eat 糭子  zòngzi  (rice dumplings wrapped in leaves), and remember Qu Yuan for his poetry and patriotism.   In recent years people have begun to suggest another reason for his committing suicide based on alternative readings of his poetry.  Usually, his prose is understood as patriotic, but some scholars suggest that it can also be understood as an expression of his love for King Huai, who exiled him before ignoring his advice. This has led to some of the Chinese LGBTQ+ community, as well as a number of scholars, interpreting Qu Yuan’s suicide as that of a jilted lover, rather than an exasperated patriot.  Regardless of the reason for which he committed suicide, he was a much-loved figure and this yearly celebration of his life, death, and poetry has left a great legacy in sport and cuisine. Over the last 30 years or so, the sport of Dragon Boat Racing has become popular around the world and the International Dragon Boat Federation support competitions and leagues everywhere. The  zòngzi  have also gained popularity as a regular snack food, sometimes plain, sometimes stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings.  Sources:

In honour of the Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (May 30th 2017) here's the tradition and story behind the yearly celebrations.

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