Science - February 14, 2008

Dumplings and games herald year of the rat

The big sports hall in De Bongerd was filled with merrymaking Chinese students on Saturday 9 February. They were celebrating Chinese new year with a Culture and Games evening organised by the Chinese Association of Students and Scholars in Wageningen (CASSW).

Chinese new year party in De Bongerd.
‘Get your lucky number please!’ Didi, a Chinese PhD student and member of CASSW, pushes a red piece of paper with a number on it into each visitor’s hand as they enter. ‘There’ll be a draw at the end of the evening and you can win a prize,’ she explains merrily. ‘But it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the lucky number; you can also win prizes with the games this evening.’

In the sports hall there are tables with all sorts of activities: a dumpling workshop, a Chinese fortune teller, calligraphy and mah jong. You can also play table tennis or dress up in traditional Chinese costume and have your photo taken. Each game involves a competition for which you can earn points, for example for the one who makes the most and the best dumplings in five minutes. Prizes include teapots, cutlery, toothbrushes and bottles of Head & Shoulders shampoo.

The celebrations are not only attended by Chinese – plenty of international students and lecturers are also present. Didi explains that this was the intention: ‘Each game is explained in Chinese and English. Actually it was new year on Thursday, but we moved the party to today, so that more people could come.’ She’s pleased with the good turnout. ‘Perhaps it’ll help the Chinese students to miss home less.’

At the end of the evening it’s time for new year’s speeches. The chairwoman of CASSW wishes everyone a happy new year and thanks the owner of the Chinese restaurant for the snacks he provided. Then it’s the turn of a representative from the Chinese embassy to talk. He reminds the Chinese students that they mustn’t forget to tell their parents about how they are doing in the Netherlands. Family is important in China and contacts must be maintained, even when a family member is abroad.

Deputy mayor Stella Efdé and the WUR education director Pim Brascamp also talk briefly to the revellers. They focus on the fact that we have just entered the year of the rat. The rat is quick and intelligent: let’s hope it will be a year with good study results!

Then it’s time for the draw. Pim Brascamp is asked to pick the last ‘lucky number’ out of the hat. Unfortunately no one claims the number drawn, but spirits remain high. After eight more draws a Chinese girl comes up to receive her new cutlery set.

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