Members of a team compete during Friday’s dragon boat race.
Expats living in Shekou spent a wonderful holiday integrating with the local community and immersing themselves in traditional Chinese culture by learning to make zongzi and competing in a dragon boat race.
On Thursday, the zongzi-wrapping activity, organized by the Shekou Management and Service Center for Expats, was kicked off with a clapper talk performance, a traditional Chinese form of narrative singing accompanied by a pair of bamboo clappers to mark the beats. The performers expressed their best wishes for the audience through clapper talk.
Although most of the expat residents couldn’t understand the meaning of the narrative content, they were totally amazed by the performance, especially the bamboo clappers and beats.
Following the performance, all of the participants couldn’t wait to make zongzi. With the resident volunteers patiently teaching how to make zongzi, the expat participants who hadn’t known anything about making zongzi could make zongzi in beautiful quadrangles or cones.
There were mainly two flavors of zongzi, sweet and salty, and various fillings that residents could use to make different stuffed zongzi as they preferred.
Nagpal from India said she thinks learning about Chinese culture and participating in community activities are wonderful experiences.
“It is because people here are very nice and many of them can speak English that I decided to live in Shekou. Moreover, there are varieties of delicious foods, which is one other reason for me to settle down here,” said Nagpal.
Nagpal shared the same answer as Norman from France for the most interesting part of making zongzi, folding the leaves. They said that folding the leaves was the first and key step, and was the most interesting as well as the most difficult part of making zongzi.
During the zongzi-making experience, one of the local volunteers surnamed Zhang said she was moved by the way the expat residents learned earnestly by following the volunteers’ instructions. She hopes that these foreign friends can teach their friends and families in their home countries to let more people learn about Chinese culture.
The dragon boat race, a Dragon Boat Festival tradition, was held on Houhai River, which is a man-made canal in the Houhai area of Nanshan District.
The race, organized by Shekou Subdistrict Office, drew 10 teams, including one expatriate team, and attracted thousands of cheering spectators to the riverbanks Friday. Each team was made up of 12 members, including 10 paddlers, who work or live in the Shekou or Houhai areas. The competition was divided into preliminary and final rounds.
In the preliminaries, two teams competed at a time in accordance with the 10-in-four system. The race consisted of a round-trip straight track with the total course covering 800 meters. In the finals, the four remaining teams raced simultaneously.
Shenzhen Bay Community Team, consisting of 12 members from five countries, finished third in the race.
Five of this international team were expats from the United States, Serbia, India and the Philippines, while seven of them were Chinese residents from the Shenzhen Bay community.
Gerald Lawrence Manuel from the Philippines was the only member of Shenzhen Bay Community Team with experience dragon boat racing as he used to be a member of his country’s national dragon boat race team. Before the competition, he broke down every movement involved in rowing a dragon boat and elaborated on each part for his team members.
“I want to win the race, but I think it was a big victory to stay with the paddlers and share my experience. I really appreciate that our members followed my advice, especially when I was teaching them some of the skills,” said Manuel.
Gannet Wystix from the U.S. thought that it was a very interesting experience for the foreigners who were participating in a dragon boat race for the first time.
“In the race, we learned the teamwork to bring our effort together to compete to win,” said Wystix.
“I had just learned to make zongzi one day before and now am participating in the dragon boat race. These activities help me learn more about traditional Chinese culture and grow to love Shekou,” said Wystix.
Houhai River was once polluted by wastewater discharged by the neighborhoods along the banks. The river treatment in the past year has greatly improved the quality of the water allowing such an event to be held.
“The dragon boat race showed our achievement in handling water treatment. On the other hand, it enhanced exchanges between the Chinese and foreign communities in Shekou,” said Lan Tao, Party chief of Shekou Subdistrict.