#BirminghamCityUniversity Celebrates #ChineseNewYear 伯明翰城市大学师生欢聚一堂庆新春

I wish you happiness!

I wish you Happy New Year!

It was just an idea. Then it got hold of me and I got hold of my managers.

Shall we organise a Chinese Culture Conference and Chinese New Year party to celebrate the Year of Monkey? I asked.

Why not? I got an instant answer.

From there onwards it was smooth sailing. I emailed a bunch of people, members of staff, visiting academics and students with whom we set up an organising committee. On our first brainstorming meeting, everyone present gave their twopence and all, ideas how we could run this. By the end of the meeting, we had a rough plan in place.

On the 3rd of February 2016, Birmingham City University held its first ever Chinese New Year celebration, which comprised two parts: Culture Awareness Conference in the afternoon, and entertainment and food party in the evening.

CNY Programme

CNY Programme

Decorating the Lecture Hall & Preparing Red Packets

Decorating & Stuffing Red Packets

 

 

 

During the conference, we had a number of speakers, providing the audiences with interesting, informative and insightful presentations, from the cultural diversity within China, to the study and travel tips on the beautiful island (as Formosa in Portuguese) of Taiwan, from the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia to how people celebrate Chinese New Year Singapore style. We also ran a workshop on Student and Staff Mobility which informed the participants of the various opportunities available for a more international experience as well as personal development.

With all the organisation and planning going into the Event, from securing sponsorships for our red packets (from Wing Hua Chinese restaurant) to the fun games especially posted over from Taiwan, participants were also able to practise Chinese calligraphy and listen to beautiful performances from China. Our hugely talented students and visiting musicians from Birmingham Conservatoire gave us an awesome performance. About 300 people attended the celebration in the evening and the Curzon Lecture Hall was packed.

Interesting presentations from all speakers

Interesting presentations from all speakers

Street Food provided for all participants

Street Food provided for all participants

Packed Lecture Hall during the performance

Packed Lecture Hall during the performance

Chinese Mandarin and Sweet Treats

Chinese Mandarin and Sweet Treats

We also had the pleasure of welcoming a visitor from afar, all the way from one of our partner institutions from Taiwan, Dr Aiden Yeh from Wenzao Ursuline University of Foreign Languages. Just before the afternoon session was about the end, BCU’s VC popped in to wish everyone present a very happy Chinese New Year.

Dr Aiden Yeh, BCU's VC, and John Kirk

Dr Aiden Yeh, BCU’s VC, and John Kirk

The Principal of Conservatoire Julian Lloyd Webber

The Principal of Conservatoire Julian Lloyd Webber with one of the singers & family

String Quartet by First Year Conservatoire students

String Quartet by First Year Birmingham  Conservatoire Students

I won’t go into too much detail about this celebration, suffice to say how much I enjoyed being part of an amazing team who made this happen. I take this opportunity to show my appreciation to everyone who was involved in making this such a memorable and successful event. So thank you all on the organising committee, in no particular order:

Beetung Goo, Jenny Kung, Ren Jie, Tian Yuan, Wang Wei, Pam Murria, Yang Bong, Peipei Yu, Matthew Lee, Moustapha Ndiaye, Natalie Chan, Maggie Wootton and John Kirk. Without you, it would not have been possible.

Did you practice your Chinese Caligraphy?

Practice Chinese Calligraphy

Lucky red packets for everyone!

Lucky red packets for everyone!

A Team!

A Team: Matt, Yuan, Junying, Beetung, Jenny, Natalie, Yang and Wei – We Wish Everyone a Wonderful Year of Monkey, beginning today on the 8th of February 2016!

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Should #Europe Close Its Doors to #Migrants?

Is there hope for immigrants?

Is there hope for immigrants?

Take a look at this week’s headlines and hot topics on Social Media, you will not fail to see migrants and immigration policies making huge waves across Europe. First, there was the Danish new law which will allow authorities to seize asylum seeker’s assets and to delay family reunions, in a bid to make Denmark less attractive as a destination for migrants, as published on Sky News Denmark Passes Tough New Immigration Law.

Following the release of this controversial news, the prominent Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei made headlines by announcing withdrawal of his works from two museums in Denmark in protest, which, naturally, caused a lot of controversy worldwide. Ai Wei Wei Withdraws works in Denmark due to Immigration Law.

Ai Wei Wei Exhibition at Royal College of Arts 2015

Ai Wei Wei Exhibition at Royal College of Arts in London 2015

Then we saw Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in a political crisis – Large numbers of Germans polled wanted her to resign due to her open-door immigration policy: Forty percent of Germans say Merkel should resign over refugee policy.

I stand with Ai Wei Wei and Angela Merkel.

Not everyone is interested in the plight of those fleeing conflict and war zones. Not everyone really care about the tortuous fate of immigrants. Those who do show an interest in them, many just see them as burdens to the welfare system, a negative import to the country who increase the crime rate, jamming the schools and hospitals, and worst of all, breeding terrorists.

Syrian refugees passing through Copenhagen Central Station to Sweden 2015

Syrian refugees passing through Copenhagen Central Station to Sweden 2015

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How many of us see the international flow of immigrants as an essential part of life in the modern world? How many of us are immigrants ourselves?

I hear what people on Facebook and Twitter say about immigrants, as if they are sub humans, undesirable and unwelcome, no matter what reasons they may have to leave their own countries. Nobody challenges a white person or a family relocating from one country to another, to work, to live, or just to enjoy the sunshine another country has amply supply for. It’s perfectly acceptable for a British person to go and live in Spain, in Norway, or New Zealand. No problem. They don’t claim social welfare, or do they? If they do, does anyone care and moan about it? They are entitled, aren’t they, even if they have never contributed a single working day in the host country? They are white, and probably middle class, so it must be acceptable.

Then I also hear people, who are immigrants themselves, for reasons which are legitimate, therefore elevating them to the status of lawful tax payer in the local community consequently acting as a guard dog for the new ‘home’ country and her safety, from other ‘immigrants’, refugees and asylum seekers. “They are not like us,” I can almost hear them say that out loud with pride. “We are better than them”.

Are we really better than those poor people who had to leave their country? Do we really know why they cross oceans, climb mountains, encounter unimaginable obstacles and often risk their lives and lives of their loved ones to venture to a foreign land which does not welcome them? What make them so desperate and so determined to cross borders?

Have we already forgotten the little boy who was washed up on the Turkish shore only a few months ago?

One of the most heart wrenching images

One of the most heart wrenching images

Art created from reality

Art created from reality

Let us stop complaining about immigrants taking our jobs and claiming our welfare, and pause to think for one moment. Are the jobs immigrants are doing something you really want to do? Are you prepared to be stuck in the dingey kitchen and washing dishes all night when you can sit comfortably in your cosy home, watching TV and ordering Chinese or Indian Take-aways? Do you really want to spend your day picking fruits and vegetables from dawn to dusk, for a pittance? How about becoming an engineer which the UK will be in short supply very soon?

Border crossing

Border crossing

Heading towards land of hope

Heading towards land of hope

When some of you get bored with your orderly life and wander off to a brothel for a bit of fun with young, foreign flesh, do you ever ask yourself how they got into your country and what desperate situation they’ve found themselves in? Have you heard of human trafficking and sex trafficking, one of the most profitable industries in the world, to the ultimate shame of humanity?

I am an immigrant, I am not ashamed to say. I came to the UK to study and I stayed. It was not easy but I managed to stay without claiming any benefits, and I am grateful to the UK government which allowed me to become a British citizen.

During my stint as a freelance interpreter, I met many immigrants, many illegal and some criminals, I heard their stories, I witnessed their pain, and I got glimpses of their struggles. They inspired me to write a book called Land of Hope, documenting many of their heartaches, trials and tribulations. I met numerous asylum seekers evading prosecution back home, some not making genuine claims; I crossed paths with prostitutes and their pimps, people who grow cannabis and who sold counterfeit DVDs on the streets, Yes, I met hundreds of them.

True stories of immigrants

True stories of immigrants

You meet them too, but you probably do not see them. Many of them are invisible. But they do contribute to our life, even when we are oblivious to their existence. Many of them may not pay tax to our governments, but they make sure that we can shop in our local super markets and buy whatever we like, at a low cost.

Am I better than those invisible immigrants? I don’t think so. I am just luckier and I am blessed to have a good education, which many of them are deprived of.

I applaud people like Ai Wei Wei, who has influence and a voice which he chose to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Europe has a humanitarian tradition which promotes democracy, equality and freedom. That is what attracts immigrants and their continuous flow. Don’t let the narrow-minded people destroy that wonderful tradition. Don’t ever forget where we come from as a human race.

We are all originated from Africa, millions of years ago.

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Memories of Celebrating #ChineseNewYear Through Time 辞旧迎新喜迎猴年

Spring Festival Visit in 2013

Spring Festival Visit in 2013

Every year at this time, I feel the excitement and cheer in the air, cool though the weather may be. No matter where you are, if you are born Chinese, or your ancestors are Chinese, you will be celebrating the biggest festival in the lunar calendar, Chunjie, Spring Festival.

I remember, as a child, Spring festival was special, even when resources were scarce and people were poor. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s in China, it was the only time that my parents would buy we children new clothes, and candies. My dad would make a special meal for us at home, and sometimes we might even go out to a restaurant, a very rare treat in those days.

Times improved and people became better off. Spring festival was still special, and we started to enjoy feasts which included more varied and fancy dishes. The families, within China and outside, near and far, would gather together to mark the biggest occasion.

My parents and brothers when I was 15

My parents and brothers in the 1970s

With Mum and Uncles and Aunties 2013

With Mum and Uncles and Aunties 2013

In recent decades, as China’s economy boomed, this time of the year ushers in the biggest human migration the world has ever seen, when airports and train stations are packed with travellers heading home. Guangzhou had a queue of a million for trains home.

In the 27 years I lived in the UK, I only went back to China for this special occasion once, in 2013. Partly it was to avoid the huge rush and ‘human mountain, human sea’ in China, more so because I preferred to travel to see my family in the real ‘spring’ when it was warmer, like April time, which happens to fall during my birthday and my Mum’s.

Typical Festive Chinese Foods

Typical Festive Chinese Foods

However, it does not mean that I did not celebrate Chinese New Year. Yes, in the West, we call it Chinese New Year. In fact, I try to make it as special as possible, with my small family, and with my circle of friends.

For a number of years after I arrived in the UK, I organised Chinese New Year Parties, the first of which dated back to early 1990s when I was a research student at the University of Glasgow. As you can see from the pictures below, I was the compere for the Chinese New Year celebration, and I sang and danced all night, making sure that everyone else had fun too.

Dancing the night away in Glasgow 1991

Dancing the night away in Glasgow 1991

Celebrating CNY with friends in Leeds

Celebrating CNY with friends in Leeds

Festival meal with my Students in Glasgow

Festival meal with my Students in Glasgow

I reprised my role as party organiser when I moved to Leeds in 1993. Even though we did not have as many Chinese students and scholars as we do now, for a big city like Glasgow and Leeds, we still had hundreds. I always made efforts to include the British and other international students too. The more, the merrier.

This year, together with a capable team, I am organising another large scale Chinese New Year celebration. As someone who is keen to promote Chinese culture and customs, as well as a so-called ‘Multi-cultural icon’ to boot, I am glad to say that time has never been better to be proud of one’s roots. China, the sleeping dragon for many years, has woken up, and the whole world, cannot fail to take notice.

BCU's International Office Wishing You Happy CNY!

BCU’s International Office Wishes You Happy CNY!

So if you are living in Birmingham, especially if you are a member of staff or student from Birmingham City University, come and join the celebration. You can sign up for your free place Here, and the time and location are on the posters below.

If you live in a different part of the world, you can still celebrate it with your loved ones. As to how, I attach a video at the end so you can at least pop to the nearest Chinese restaurant and enjoy a special Chinese feast to your heart’s content.

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Last but not least, I wish you all a most prosperous and successful Year of Monkey!

May you be surrounded by happiness all year around!

May you be surrounded by happiness all year around!

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#Beach Fun with Friends under African Sun in Winter

Let's play! Photo by Zhao Li

Let’s play! Photo by Zhao Li

As promised, I am back with more pictures of our recent visit to Gran Canaria. One of the most enjoyable things that happened was our surprising get-together with a BCU colleague and friend Leo Wang and his family (He found out that we were in Gran Canaria through the Chinese social media WeChat). We spent a wonderful day at the Maspolomas beach. As his two children had fun building a sand castle, I was able to dip into the sea, top of my list for being happy!

We went back to Puerto de Morgan, which I wrote about before with link below:

Views from Maspalomas Princess – Canary Islands Impressions

This time, we hired a paddling boat and went out to the sea. We did not venture far, but it was a cool experience. John did most of the work paddling though, as I tried to take selfies. ‘I won’t be jumping in if you lose the phone,’ he warned me.

Family Fun at Maspolomas Beach

Family Fun at Maspolomas Beach

Day out to Puerto Morgan

Day out to Puerto Morgan, “Little Venice”

Against John’s better judgment, I also signed up for a day trip with our tour company Thompson, which took us to an extensive sales talk on special mattresses and marino wool beddings. We didn’t buy any but we did enjoy the visit to the cave houses and quaint village of Aguimes.

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Aguimes is pretty

Aguimes is pretty

In the evening after the daily buffet with a massive choice of local and international cuisine, we went to the nightly entertainment, from Flamenco dancers to Spanish guitar bands. I particularly enjoyed the evening of Abba and Queen joint tribute bands called Dancing Queen. Of course, being a huge fan of Abba myself I actually found out that John is a fan too. Guess what, after 17 years, you can still find something new and surprising about your partner.

Dancing Queen on the Stage

Dancing Queen on the Stage

Yellow Submarine at Puerto de Morgan

Yellow Submarine at Puerto de Morgan

Sushi and Chinese Dim Sum with Leo's Family

Sushi and Chinese Dim Sum with Leo’s Family

I will now share a video of Gran Canaria which I made following my previous visits. It is just as beautiful, and there is little wonder why I keep going back. Come enjoy the sunshine and forget about the snow here in Birmingham and the UK this week.

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