Category Archives: International Events

OU Asian Food Fair

Today was a good day, because among other reasons, I got to eat some delicious food at OU’s Asian Food Fair. Plus it felt like it was free, because even though it cost $7, I bought the ticket yesterday so it seemed like it was free today. The Asian Food fair is hosted by OU’s Asian American Student Association, and it raises money to provide holiday meals and gifts to underprivileged kids. The food at the food fair was provided by several Asian food restaurants around Norman.

Though I didn’t have time to stay for long, I got to sample several different types of Asian food. To be totally honest, I’m not that adventurous of an eater, plus I had practice this afternoon and I didn’t want to eat anything weird right before practice, so I only tried one thing that was unfamiliar. It turned out to be a desert that was probably coconut milk based and had some fruit and jello in it. It wasn’t bad, so I’d say I made a good choice. Of course, I sampled some more familiar looking dishes from several restaurants

Overall, it was a great way to break up the monotony of always eating the same lunch, and got me thinking about how much I miss Chinese food. Not the stuff you get at Panda Express that’s doused in sweet and sour sauce but the hot pot and Dalian seafood and baozi and $1 fried rice from the sketchy looking shop across the street. I’m not really sure where I was hoping to go with this post, I guess I was just feeling nostalgic. I’ll get back to China someday, if for no other reason than just to see and hear and experience it all again.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far, and thanks to AASA for setting up a great event for a great cause.

Chinese Moon Festival

Moon Festival, also called Mid-Autumn Festival, is a Chinese holiday that is somewhat analogous to Thanksgiving in the U.S.. It was initially meant to celebrate the end of harvesting. It also was, and still is, a time for reuniting and spending time with family and friends. The moon is significant in this regard, because even when people are far away from their family, they can still look up and be connected by seeing the same moon. Today, the most important food during moon festival are moon cakes, which are exchanged between family and friends, and usually round to represent the moon. Throughout the holiday’s more than 2000 years of existence, several legends and stories about it have emerged, but the most common by far is the story of Hou Yi and Chang E.

The story goes that long ago, the earth was surrounded by ten suns, which made it quite hot, and all of the crops were drying up. Hou Yi was a skilled archer, who shot nine of the ten suns out of the sky, thereby becoming a very famous hero. As a reward for his work, he was offered an immortality elixir, which he refused to drink because he wanted to stay with his wife, Chang E. Since he was so famous, he had many students who wished to learn from him, one of whom, Pang Meng, who wanted the elixir for himself. Pang Meng tried to steal the elixir when Hou Yi was gone, so Chang E, knowing she couldn’t fight him off, drank the elixir to protect it. The elixir caused her to be immortal and float away to the moon, where legend says she still lives. This legend is commonly told to children on Moon Festival. Much of the art surrounding Moon Festival involves this story, or is based on the rather beautiful notion that even people who are very far apart still see the same moon.

Moon Festival was on September 15th this year, and OU’s Chinese Language Club celebrated with homemade mooncakes, tea, and games. I had fun practicing my Chinese a bit, and trying to learn everyone’s name. I think I’m somehow more outgoing when I speak Chinese. I also gave a short presentation at the beginning of the event on the basics of Moon Festival. It was about the same content as the two paragraphs above, but it was a lot more uncomfortable, because at least half of the audience was Chinese, and they definitely know more about Moon Festival than I do. It was just really strange to give a presentation to someone about their own culture. Fortunately, I didn’t say anything terribly incorrect, and we all forgot about it and enjoyed free moon cakes afterward, but it was still a slightly uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

The Righteous Among the Nations Talk

Last week was Holocaust remembrance week, and OU hosted a number of events throughout the week to educate people on the Holocaust. There were several interesting talks and films offered, but unfortunately my class and homework schedule conflicted with most of them. I did manage to make it to one talk about the Righteous Among the Nations, which is a topic I didn’t know hardly anything about. I’m still no expert, but now I know more than I did before!
The Righteous Among the Nations is a title given out by the state of Israel that honors people who risked their own lives to help Jews and other persecuted people during the Holocaust. The talk consisted of going over some examples of what exactly the title means (It’s a title that is not given out lightly- only a few extraordinary people have been given the honor), as well as some examples of people who have received this honor. One such example was Oscar Schindler, who saved thousands of people by employing them in his factory. (OU also screened Shindler’s List for Holocaust Remembrance Week, which I have yet to see.)
Probably the most interesting point in the talk was the diversity of the Righteous Among the Nations. They come from 38 different countries, some of which are nowhere near Germany, or even Europe. At a time when a lot of the world, including the U.S., turned a blind eye to what was happening (I’m not going to get into whether or not outside powers knew the extent of what was happening, because I honestly don’t know how much the U.S. or other countries knew. But I do think it was pretty clear that something wrong was going on, and more could have been done to stop it), these people stepped up and did what they could to help people. I think the important takeaway from this is that 1. Sometimes the right thing isn’t the thing that most people are doing, or the easiest thing, and 2. Even things that are far away are relevant. Just because something is happening on a different continent, doesn’t mean we don’t have to care about it, and doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it either. I hope to keep that in mind.

OU’s very first Global Engagement Day

One of the requirements of the Global Engagement program is that we attend and participate in OU’s Global Engagement Day. Sine it’s a new program, this year was the very first Global Egnagement day! There were panels to discuss various aspects of studying abroad, as well as an informal “panel”/discussion about meaningful study abroad experiences. I participated in the informal discussion. It was a nice break from endless homework to just sit around with some other GEF’s and talk about study abroad. Of course, we talked about the peculiarities of the countries we studied and lived in, as well as the most crazy things that we did or had happen while we were gone. There were a lot of different experiences, but we definitely had a few things in common:

1. Everyone has trouble with the actual travel part of studying abroad. It seemed like everyone had a story about almost losing their bag, or having trouble at the airport. I guess it’s just statistically unlikely for someone to spend such a long time travelling and have nothing go wrong.

2. Everyone has done at least one really crazy thing. It probably didn’t even seem that crazy when they were doing it. I didn’t think my 50K was that crazy, but everyone else had a different opinion! On the other hand, some of the things that the other GEF’s did seemed impossibly crazy, like live with a stranger for a few weeks. (Then again, I did stay with a complete stranger I met at the airport my first night, so I guess I get it)

I’m disappointed that I had class during the rest of Global Engagement Day, because I would have liked to hear from some of the other panels, but I’m glad I was at least able to participate in something. And I guess the overall takeaway from this is if you go abroad, don’t freak out when travelling goes wrong, and make sure to do at least one thing that’s a little bit crazy.

Chinese New Year (春节)

Last Thursday (February 19th) was the Lunar New Year. At OU, the holiday was accompanied by a variety of fun events hosted by a combination of the Chinese Department, Chinese Language Club, Chinese Society of Students and Scholars, and Confucius Institute. There was free Chinese food on the South Oval, food, games, and the CCTV Chinese New Year show in Wagner hall on Thursday night, and a Chinese New Year Gala complete with food and performances by the CSSS on Sunday. There were also events and cheap authentic Chinese food at local Chinese restaurants. Of all these events, I unfortunately only made it to the free food on the South Oval (by chance) and the event on Thursday night.

Even though I only made it to one of the many fun events I could have gone to, the Chinese New Year celebration was a lot of fun. We ate a variety of Chinese food, including delicious rice rolls made by my Chinese teacher and, of course, 饺子 (dumplings). After we ate, there were several Chinese cultural activities, including calligraphy, Ma jiang, and contests to see who was the best at using chopsticks. I finally learned how to play Ma jiang, which might be a valuable skill to have when I study abroad in China. One of the people I was playing with had been to China, and said that Ma jiang is, in fact, quite popular in Beijing. Since I spent so much time learning how to play Ma jiang, I didn’t really get a chance to do any calligraphy or chopstick competitions before the event ended, but I still had a great time.

Throughout the entire event, the Chinese New Year show, which is broadcast on CCTV in China, was playing. The show is basically a collection of songs, dances, acrobatics, and sketches that lasts for about five hours, so we didn’t get to see the whole thing. In China, the show is watched by just about everyone who has a TV and includes most of China’s biggest celebrities. As my Chinese teacher said, a Chinese person will know they’re truly a celebrity if they are on the New Year show. What I saw of this year’s show included a confusing sketch, that would have probably been funny if I were better at understanding Chinese, and a mash up of several of this year’s biggest Chinese songs. I didn’t really recognize any of them except for a few lines of 小苹果 (if you’re into confusing music video experiences, this song is for you), but several of the people who had been to China and were more aware of popular Chinese songs were able to sing along. Overall, it was a lot of fun, and next year I’ll definitely try to make it to more Chinese New Year Events.

Chinese Corner!

One of the events sponsored by the Confucius Institute at OU is Chinese Corner. Chinese corner is an opportunity to meet with other students and a Chinese teacher to simply practice speaking Chinese. When I went, there were only two students, myself and another Global Engagement Fellow, Ashlynne Macnee. We spent an hour speaking only Chinese. If we didn’t know how to say something, we had to try to explain it in Chinese or draw it.

I learned quite a few new words in that one hour. It was also good to try and explain unknown words using only Chinese. It’s easy when learning a language to fall into the trap of tossing English words into the middle of a sentence when you don’t know something. Chinese corner forced me to realize that my Chinese has actually come a long way. I don’t necessarily know a lot of words, but I at the very least know how to describe a lot of words I don’t know using ones that I do know. I will definitely be going to Chinese Corner again to keep practicing my Chinese.