Since now Christmas is just around the corner here in Europe I want to share with you a story about my first Christmas in China.
My first Christmas in China was just around the corner. I was looking forward to it and a bit curious. How would it be? Where would I go? Would I be alone or spend the Christmas with someone? The Chinese are not Christians, except for some very small groups.
There had been a Christmas party in my school but now everyone had left and it was just me.
The 21st I had spent most of the day writing Christmas cards for my students, 120 of them. I also gave them something to taste from Iceland. A golden chocolate and dry fish (harðfisk). My students had asked me to bring something back from my trip to Iceland, which was to renew my VISA. Of course there were many other things I could have taken back but the chocolate and the fish were my choice, among other things because of the overweight in my plane and how extremely expensive it was.
It was nice sitting outside in 25 degrees and sunshine writing something personal for each and every one of my dear students, thinking about them and these 5 months we had spent together. At 5 o’clock I moved inside, it was beginning to cool down.
The next day arrived. My students were graduating and there was a picture taken of all the students, the headmasters, the teachers and the old ladies who governed the school. This was the first time I met all the teachers. It came as a surprise how 90% of the foreign teachers seemed to be rather old but they are between 60 and 65 but look much older. Also there was one of the older headmasters; I had met her at the 100 years anniversary where she gave a wonderful speech. I sat next to the lady and of course I greeted everyone with a handshake, just as my custom was and got a wonderful smile and a warm handshake.
Moments like this make the life worth living even though they last just a tiny moment. They enrich the life and warm the heart.
Then the photo was taken, not just one, a lot of them. At my left side sat a foreign teacher. He was from Amerika and was a guest teacher this semester. A frightfully negative one and felt everything impossible and nagged endlessly about all and nothing.
At the other side was one of the older foreign teachers, one of the older ones, such a wonderful lady warm and tiny but from her there poured out love and joy. These 2 were representing two different worlds; different culture and one of them embraced the opportunity to touch the ancient history but the other one did not seize the moment. I had sometimes felt sorry for the poor man when I met him between classes, but this day I somehow stopped feeling sorry for him. He had got a chance for 3 months and lost it just because of his own prejudices. Sometimes life is a bit funny.
After all the pictures had been taken by the professional I met with my 4 classes and we shared a moment together, the goodbye moment. They got the cards and the chocolate plus the fish. I talked to them, made a tiny speech and of course shed a tear or two just as I had done the day before while writing the cards. They have a special place in my heart these girls and will always be dear to me. My girls have taught me so much about Chinese culture and how they think. Some of them cried in my arms when we said good bye. Of course they took a lot of photos and one of them mentioned that I was like a film star. She had a point but at this moment I was used to it and did not notice any more how much attention I received. It was just a part of my daily life and not more important than scraping snow from a car during an ice cold winter morning in Iceland.
On the 24th I was going to church in Fuzhou. My security guard, one of them, and my Chinese teacher had found a big church and intended to go there with me together with 2 of his classmates who wanted to test their English knowledge. They had never met or spoken to a foreigner and wanted to speak with me. Since we were going to take a bush to the city and the drive was about an hour plus some waiting at the church, even some hours until it opened and the mass began, I thought it was a good idea for the girls to come with us and they could talk for 3 hours at least. The Chinese do talk a lot and love it.
Anyway the girls agreed and I told my friend that I would invite them all to a Christmas dinner afterwards and that would be my Christmas party. I was looking forward to this and excited about experiencing the Christmas with the Chinese students. They had no idea what to expect and I did not either. I had no idea how the mass would be. Would they sing Holy night? I hoped so. I had told my friend that Christmas began for me when I had been to Church and sang Holy night and cried a little. Just to make sure he would not worry if the tears began flowing down the teachers cheeks.
We talked on our way to central Fuzhou. We found the church and then it happened. The girls wanted to leave; they had prepared a party with their friend. They did not want to spend the evening with the foreigner. There was a long, a really long discussion about how the teacher would find her way back home to Min Hou? Would she get lost? Would she know what bus to take, and would there be any busses? A huge problem and they worried.
I told them not to worry; I would just take a taxi when everything was over. They could go back to the school and enjoy their friends company. No problem, and finally I managed to convince them it would be ok to leave me and they left.
Eventually the church opened and we got a seat, i.e. I and the other people, a huge crowd of Chinese people and lot of them just standing outside. Everything was put on a speaker.
There was no talking, no mass, nothing but singing, dancing and performing. When this had gone on for more than 2 hours and they began dancing by Holy night, I left. This was enough. They had ruined my Christmas, I could not sing Holy night and that was it. Of course I did sing Holy night in Icelandic when they played it but doing that while they were dancing was a blasphemy.
When I came out and looked at my phone I saw that my friend had called several times. I called back. Where are you? He asked. Outside the church, I replied. Me too, he said. This was many hours after he had left with his classmates. How could he still be outside the church? I was confused.
We found each other and he told me how worried he had been that I would not find my way back home, so he came back. He had not been able to get into the church because of the huge crowd and had waited outside for hours.
I was stunned, but also grateful. We tried to find a place where we could get something to eat, this was after all Christmas eve and we needed to have something nice. Nothing was open and eventually we found a small dirty horrible place and got some horrible dinner, but at least it was food.
After the dinner we took a taxy home to Min Hou. I had left my car at my friends’ dorm and we said good bye, he went upstairs to his room and I drove home to my house.
This was my first Christmas in China, what an adventure.