Author: Song Fangcan
Translator: Zander Rounds
Published on: 2/24/15
Source: China News Service
Original text (in Chinese): http://www.chinanews.com/hr/2015/02-24/7075435.shtml
What is it like for the Chinese living and working in Africa? This article about China’s “migratory birds” – the people that return home from abroad every holiday season – provides some insight into what it is like being abroad during the holidays.
—- Zander Rounds (Translator)
During a skit from the Year of the Goat Spring Festival Gala that took place on New Year’s Eve, a lonely father (Played by Pan Changjiang) morosely passes the time in an empty car. After a “serendipitous meeting” at a train station he receives a call from his son saying that he has already returned from Africa to celebrate the New Year. Viewers are moved as this previously unattainable dream of reunion becomes a happy reality. Although this is only an art piece, now returning to China has undeniably become a common practice for Africa’s Chinese people.
“The most remote distance in the world is when you are in China but I am in Africa.” Someone posted this sorrowful message. However, along with developments in communication technology and as transportation methods become more convenient and individual purchasing power increases, more and more overseas Chinese in Africa return to China (their ancestral home) to celebrate the New Year. This is no longer an unattainable dream. During this traditional festival more and more people embark on this homeward-bound, “migratory bird-like” journey to celebrate the holiday.
There are a lot of Chinese enterprises and overseas Chinese in Kenya. All local ethnic Chinese people are fond of using WeChat to wish people a Happy New Year. When doing so, some people even specifically indicate that they are, “Wishing everyone a happy new year from my homeland.” Their words clearly demonstrate their proud and happy sentiments.
In South Africa, up to now there are 30,000 overseas Chinese living as residents or immigrants. The past few years, South African president Zuma has issued a congratulatory note, wishing Chinese people a happy new year. Although ethnic Chinese compatriots have achieved great success in every domain, they still inevitably feel a tug of yearning for their homeland and the relatives that they miss.
Huang Jingjing is the president of South Africa’s China Culture and Art Exchange Association. She recruits a lot of Chinese people in South Africa to participate in events like singing and beauty competitions and is the most recognizable face in South Africa’s ethnic Chinese community’s activities and performances. As the Year of the Goat Spring Festival approached however, she discontinued a lot of chaotic work in order to resolutely return home.
“I have been settled in South Africa for eight years.” Huang Jingjing told the reporter, “One must return home to celebrate the New Year. It is our tradition. Now my parents are getting older, often during the celebration the only ones left are the two elderly folk. I hope I can return to accompany them. In the future, every year I will strive to return home to celebrate the New Year. Although New Year celebrations in South Africa are also quite lively, in China they are more loving and comfortable.
“Besides family affection, ethnic Chinese are also moved to return home to celebrate the New Year by the desire to pursue the traditional holiday flavor. The majority of Sub-Saharan Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere. Spring Festival overlaps precisely with the beginning of fall locally. Under the scorching sun, there is very little of that traditional New Year flavor. Even in the highest latitude part of South Africa, it is common to not see a single snowflake all year round. This year, a few northern Chinese provinces saw the floating of snowflakes, arousing even more intense nostalgia in those far from home.
Wang Ning (pseudonym) is one of the people who returned home, “trudging through snow to see the plum tree.” He comes from the north, where, in his father’s eyes, he had a respectable job that made everyone in family proud. However, ten years ago he got on an indirect flight headed for Africa. During Spring Festival, he once again reflected upon the choice he made that year: admittedly, he was exhausted, but his father now lived in a new house with a magnificent pavilion and greatly increased living standards—a good deal of toil but truly worth it.
“The dust of homesickness can be blown off, while the wrinkles on a forehead cannot be blown away. Only having finished walking the roads under heaven will you think of returning through home’s door.” Twenty-one years ago, the singer Jiang Tao passionately sang this at the Spring Festival Gala. As if with these lyrics in their ears, the footsteps of Africa’s Chinese people returning to celebrate the New Year are lighthearted and resolute.
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