April 10, 2009

Volume 3, Issue 4

Team HEU playing Settlers of Catan

Money to Burn

Today (April 5) is Qing Ming Jie, or Grave Sweeping Festival in China. The holiday is akin to Memorial Day in the states as a day to remember and honor your ancestors. But Qing Ming Jie is about so much more. Qing Ming Jie has religious overtones and turning honoring your ancestors into ancestor worship. In China many believe there ancestors' spirits enter a spirit world that still influences the living world. As a way to remain on the "good side" of these spirits, people burn items the spirits may need in the afterlife; the foremost item is money. Of course no one would burn real money, so vendors throughout town sell paper "hell money". The dead spirits may need other things as well including paper cars, houses, cell phones, bank books, or other paper items. The items are burned at intersections so the dead spirit can travel from any direction and receive the burned offering.

As we walked home observing all the fires burning to spirits my student explained what she thought about Qing Ming Jie. While she does not believe in the tradition, she said seeing all the fires made her afraid. She's afraid of ghosts and afraid a spirit might show up during the festival and scare her. I began to question if this fear actually meant that she did believe in the festival. If she really didn't believe, then she would have no reason to think a spirit might show up. So on one level, as with many Chinese, she does believe.

Upon hearing my birthday is on April 5th, many in China immediately respond with comments like “Oh, what a bad day to be born” or “That’s very unlucky.” I have come to like embrace the date of my birth because I couldn’t choose the date and it leads to an easy transition into a deeper topic. Qing Ming Jie traditions always prompt great conversations with Chinese. So thank you mom and dad for my birthday, because now I can always find a way to bring up the festival anytime of the year because it's always on/near my birthday!

Jiaozi Party

Students over to make jiaozi

We did get to celebrate my birthday with students. As an update on this semester’s goal of doing nothing alone, we have come a long ways. We currently have students over at least once a week and have another group over every week as well.

So for my birthday, a group of freshmen girls came over to cook a birthday meal. They arrived at 9:00 AM and immediately took M’Lynn out to buy the needed vegetables. Once they returned, the cooking began. They were making jiaozi (a traditional Chinese family food akin to boiled dumplings) and also dishes. Jiaozi making is an all day event. First they make the dough while another student chopped the ground pork and cabbage to a fine pulp. Next the dough is rolled out into little circles about the diameter of a small biscuit. Then the pork/cabbage filling is inserted into the circle and the dough is presses to make a dumpling. Finally the dumplings are boiled and served with a soy sauce/vinegar mix.

The students were great! It was amazing to hear one comment that it feels like they are at home in our apartment. We have been meeting with the students all semester and are beginning to see the trust level deepen. We are hopeful for the relationship to continue as the semester rolls on. They will be back here for Easter eggs…

Kanyon Corner

Reading Chinese by hand

Finally, but not least is a little update on the little man. He continues to climb most things including the couch and chairs and loves to read books. The newest addition to his toy box includes a basketball that was a gift to his papa that he just loves. His newest trick is climbing stairs. Up and down all day nonstop. If he notices some stairs while we are out for a walk, he immediately pulls us in that direction.

He doesn’t speak much yet, but can make some word sounds that we could swear sound like he is really speaking. The other day we were singing “Ol McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O” When we got to the next line we stopped to let him fill in the blank, “And on that farm, he had a ___.” And little Kanyon said something remarkably similar to “cow.” So it definitely won’t be long before he is talking up a storm.

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