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Nelson Branch Newsletter – May 2010

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Rewi Alley honoured by China


 ~ Philippa Reynolds ~

Philippa Reynolds, Rewi Alley’s niece and Nelson Branch member, travelled to Beijing last December to accept, on behalf of the Alley family, a prestigious award that commemorated Rewi Alley as one of the Top Ten Foreign Friends of China over the last sixty years. 

Although it is now 22 years since Rewi’s death, it is significant that the people of China who voted for the Top Ten have not forgotten his work and still treasure his memory. Philippa’s account of this memorable occasion will be of great interest. 

As usual, Branch business will be dealt with prior to our Chinese meal costing $12. Our speaker will begin immediately after the meal. Friends and visitors are welcome but please notify Barbara when you ring so that we have accurate numbers for the meal.

Friday 14 May  ..  Hearing House  ..  5:30 pm

To arrange catering please ring:

Barbara Markland Ph. 544 4712 by Tuesday 11 May.

LAST MEETING: Keith Marshall, CEO of Nelson City Council, gave a fascinating talk, especially interesting to the many present who are, or who have been, involved in education. He gave us some personal reflections of his time in China, and of his experiences while learning the Chinese language.

Keith was the only foreigner involved in an internal audit of Chinese universities and had also been part of the negotiating team in talks before the signing of the New Zealand China Free Trade agreement.

The whole gambit of the economy was covered by the negotiating team. The New Zealand team included a variety of races and had an equal representation of gender. The Chinese team was 85% women, including some from the ethnic minorities of China, the team having been chosen on talent. There were other interesting comments made about the gender balance in China: 7 girls to 2 boys in universities; girls dominant in the faculties of Law and Sociology; of the 35,000 medical students in Xian, most are women; students in the faculty of Linguistics were all women: half of the engineering students were women.

The Chinese government decided to triple the size of the education system within a specified period of time, and thus to grow the capacity and capabilities of universities and to ensure all have a minimum of nine years education. 460,000 PhDs and Masters degrees were awarded last year. China is determined to build a first world education system and universities are peer reviewed internationally with quality assurance checks to ensure this is happening.

PRESIDENT CHRISTINE COMMENTS: It was a pleasure to welcome 40 people to our March meeting. Barbara declares this to be a record – we needed extra seating and and eating equipment which is surely something which we hope we can do again! It was a pleasure, also, to gain insight into Keith Marshall’s ‘Learning Chinese’ journey. His personal experiences, so delightfully presented, gave us some fresh viewpoints and plenty to think about as a result. Thanks, Keith!

Since our last meeting we have celebrated Easter and Anzac Day as public holidays in New Zealand. On the first of May, I was thinking about May Day being celebrated in many countries around the world as the political equivalent of ‘new life’ for the disadvantaged, similar to our Easter, perhaps. May Day passes without much notice in New Zealand with Labour Day, our own equivalent, also going by without much fanfare. In China, however, International Labour Day, celebrated on May 1st, is one of the nine National Holidays, followed a few days later by Youth Day.  

It also strikes me as interesting that these holidays, while being officially marked in government circles with appropriate ceremonies, can be celebrated in the countryside with more traditional events. I was talking to a student at NMIT about the holidays in her area of Southern China. She told me that National Day, October 1, is regarded as a ‘Beijing Government’ event, while the ‘Mid-Autumn Festival’, happening about the same time, depending on the moon, has more local attention. 

In China and New Zealand, the emphasis placed on days of national significance seems to be decided by the general population rather than by the government, as evidenced by what is happening to our Easter and Anzac commemorations.

This year our branch is hoping to combine with the international students at NMIT and other local groups to celebrate Mid Autumn Festival (early October) in our Chinese Garden. In planning for this, we would welcome ideas. While it would be mainly a cultural celebration, we could, perhaps, also publicise our projects and do some money-raising for them with a wider audience.

I’m looking forward to hearing from Philippa Reynolds at our next meeting. As I write this she is winging her way back from China and this year’s Garden Tour with Bill and Diana. She will have plenty to tell us about her trip last year to collect an award on behalf of the Alley family, along with her personal memories of her famous Uncle Rewi.

I have been delving into some of Rewi Alley’s books and am reminded of the amazing breadth and depth of his work in China. His theoretical insights and his practical applications were phenomenal, and we are fortunate indeed to have these close links with him in our branch. I look forward to seeing a good crowd to hear more at our meeting on May 14. Please bring an extra guest or two for this unique occasion – we are more than happy to bring in even more chairs and cutlery!

Husband Bruce and I will be attending the National Conference in Hamilton as your delegates (May 21-23). We have nominated Royden for another term as National Treasurer, to continue our significant presence on the National Executive.

NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2010: The 2010 National Conference and AGM will be hosted by the Hamilton Branch from 21 – 23 May, 2010. The theme is “Building Bridges” and the programme includes presentations on:

  • the 2009 Projects Tour by Meryl Lanting
  • “‘Kiwi Dragon’ – The Chinese in Aotearoa/New Zealand – history, culture, hope” by Bill Willmott
  • aspects of Chinese culture and entertainment, and
  • Chinese in New Zealand – speakers from early to recent migrants – panel discussion and questions.

Registration forms and more information are available from Royden (royden@paradise.net.nz or at the next meeting). Come and join Christine, Bruce and Royden and have a delightful Autumn holiday in Hamilton – a great chance to learn more about the NZCFS and meet lots of wonderful people.

THE BRANCH LIBRARY: Bruce Ward, now Branch Librarian, notes: At the last meeting three families borrowed books from the Travel and Memoirs section. Please return them to the box on May 14, so others can borrow them. 

At the next meeting, with the focus on Rewi Alley, we will have the New Zealand and Novels Box for extra borrowing potential. There are only 4 Rewi Alley books remaining because some appear not to have been returned. Please return these, and any others which you may have overlooked, for the next meeting so that we can share the pleasure of these special memoirs. If you have other books that you are willing to share you might like to bring them along to put in the library, or to lend on a private basis. Happy reading! 

SUBSCRIPTIONS 2010: Thanks to those who have paid their 2010 subscription already. If it has slipped your mind, these can be paid at the next meeting, or by post to the Treasurer: Royden Smith, 2/10 Ngaio Street, Stoke, or through online banking. Please let Royden know if any of your contact details or newsletter requirements have changed.

SHANGHAI EXPO: Te Puia, a cultural association in Rotorua, has presented a 3,000 year old tree, partially carved, to be displayed in the New Zealand pavilion at the Shanghai Expo which opened on 1st May. The carving of the 10 metre waka will be completed during Expo and then gifted to the Chinese government. The Premier is to receive a paddle. The initial gifting of the tree, before shipping, was made by Prime Minister John Key to the Chinese Ambassador and it is hoped to show a short video of the ceremony at a future branch meeting.

ELITE CHINESE KUNG-FU TROUPE SHOW: There is a 20 strong troupe of Chinese wushu (kung-fu) elite athletes visiting New Zealand for a one-off show at the Wellington Town Hall on Sunday 23 May, 2010, starting at 4.00pm. Tickets are $10 to $20 (plus booking fee) from Ticketek. There will also be several ‘local items’ in the first half of the show.  Ticketek link: http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=KUNGFU10

This YouTube link will give you some idea of what these wushu athletes do. The athlete on the clip is Yuan Xiao Chao of China, giving a winning performance in the 2008 World Wushu Championship, Men’s Changquan (Northern Long-Fist) event:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xr9B_41TIxY&feature=PlayList&p=EE77A10C49904CC4&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=3

NELSON MULTICULTURAL COUNCIL EVENTS: As discussed and approved at the last meeting, NZCFS Nelson is now a member of the Nelson Multicultural Council. From their latest email:

Thursday 6th May, 12 – 2pm Picnic in Anzac Park. You may have read in the Nelson Mail, about one of our members, Dr. Kay Sneddon, who was accosted in Anzac Park as she was walking through the park with her baby. She did not view the incident as a “racist incident” but saw it more as an issue of public safety. Others have said they avoid walking in this park for fear of abuse by people who have been drinking alcohol. Kay has decided it is time to reclaim the park as being a community asset to be enjoyed by everyone and so she is urging others to join her for a picnic there! (Weather permitting)

Friday 7th May, 6.30pm – 8pm, Latino Pot Luck dinner at Victory Community Centre. Yes, some of our South American members are keen to share some of their culture with us so come along and enjoy some traditional Latin culture! Bring some food to share. Children welcome.

NATIONAL TOURS: A large group of enthusiastic gardeners and travellers joined Di Madgin and Bill Willmott on the very successful NZCFS Chinese Garden Tour of the Shanghai area and Guilin in April. 

For various reasons, it wasn’t possible to organise the proposed Shanghai Expo Tour but the Tours Committee is delighted to announce that we are already planning tours for 2011 and have been working with our local hosts to bring you the following exciting opportunities: a Tour to Tibet (end of May beginning of June), and a Tour to Shanxi and Henan Provinces (September). Expressions of interest are invited for the following escorted tours:

1. Tibet: two weeks in May/June 2011

Beijing (2-3 days)

Fly to Xining in Qinghai Province and visit Qinghai Lake and ethnic minorities (2-3 days)

Train to Lhasa, Tibet and surrounding areas (5 days)

Fly to Chengdu and visit the Panda sanctuary (3-4 days)

Some fitness requirement may be necessary.

2. Shanxi and Henan Provinces: two weeks in September, 2011

Including Pingyao and Zhenzhou cities

Travel to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors and the start of the Silk Road

Takes you to places not normally travelled by other commercial tours.

For further information. and to register your interest, please contact National Tours Committee member, Royden (ph 547-6608 or royden@paradise.net.nz) or Andrew Kemp at Kemp House of Travel: phone: 0800 80 80 25 or email: kemp@hot.co.nz

PROJECTS TOUR 2010: Dave Bromwich has some places available on his next fascinating Projects Tour in October this year. These tours provide a wonderful opportunity for our members and friends to visit rural communities in China and see first-hand how our NZCFS projects operate and just how far a small amount of money can go to assist impoverished communities. 

The Projects and Rural Communities Tour will be for 22 days, from 9 October to 1 November, and will pass through Beijing to our projects area near Baoding, fly to Chengdu and visit our Sichuan earthquake projects in Pengzhou and Dujiangyan, travel West to the Tibetan area around Danba and Kanding, fly to Guiyang and visit the minorities’ area around Kaili, and then drive to Yangshuo and Guilin via the dramatic countryside around Sanzhiyang township. Tour flyers are available from Royden (ph 547-6608 or royden@paradise.net.nz) and will be available at the next meeting. 

For more details, contact Dave Bromwich direct at dbchinz@xtra.co.nz or phone 06-8779930.

WALKING THE GREAT WALL – Royden reports: Inspired by looking into the distance on every previous visit to the Great Wall and from reading the New Zealand books “Embracing the Dragon” by Polly Geeks and “First Pass Under Heaven” by Nathan Gray, I recently used three spare days in Beijing to fulfill a long-held dream to just keep on walking away from the tourist crowds and explore the “Wild Wall”. 

Covering about 25 kilometres over 2 days, my Great Wall hike included smooth restored sections at a couple of easily accessible passes, many steep and rugged steps, some narrow ridges, many severely damaged watch towers and stunning views of the Wall wandering off in the distance like a slumbering Chinese dragon.

I was accompanied by a young Chinese guide who had never walked that far in her life, and was scared of heights, but she was great company. We encountered very few other people during our walks and each night was spent in a guest house at one of the passes where we met up with the driver who transported my luggage from place to place so that I only had to carry my day pack. A dream come true!

RECOMMENDED READING – “COUNTRY DRIVING: A Chinese Road Trip” by Peter Hessler: A long-time writer for the ‘New Yorker’ and ‘National Geographic’, Peter Hessler arrived in China in 1996 as a Peace Corps volunteer and then worked as a Beijing correspondent. This is his third book on his experiences and he provides fascinating, thoughtful and often humorous insights into the lives of ordinary Chinese. 

The book is divided into 3 sections: the first covers his experiences while gaining his Chinese driving licence, renting cars, driving in Beijing and then exploring much of the length of the Great Wall by road; the second records his wry observations of life in a small village near the Great Wall where he rented a house and used it as a weekend retreat from Beijing; and the third is a wonderful commentary on a new development zone in Southern China and revolves around the setting up of a small factory that manufactures millions of coloured bra hooks.

His descriptions of the procedure for gaining a Chinese driving licence and driving in China are very funny. The law requires every aspiring Chinese driver to enrol in a certified course for 58 hours of practice and the driving test in Beijing is taken in an area blocked off to other traffic so the new drivers let loose on the roads have often never driven with other traffic. The comparisons between the driving licence questions and reality are delightful.

The part that smoking and guanxi plays in village interaction and the acceptance of a villager into the Communist Party is intriguing – it certainly helps us understand why smoking is so culturally engrained.

Furnishing a new factory, building copied machinery from scratch, employing workers, negotiating pay rates, and the infrastructure around a new development zone are thoroughly explored through an extraordinary rapport with the local bosses and workers. It is easy to feel that you are there and part of the conversation.

The blurb from Publishers Weekly quoted on the back says it all: “A fascinating portrait of a society tearing off into the future with only the sketchiest of maps”. Highly recommended and available from the Nelson Library.

You can view a PDF of the Nelson Branch Newsletter – May 2010.