On 20 July 2013, Kristin Groenewald, Mrs Hu, my Mandarin Chinese teacher and our Vice Principal, Mr Botha, travelled to Cape Town to attend the 6th annual Chinese Proficiency Competition at the Cape Academy of Science, Mathematics and Technology.
It was a stunning adventure. This year we only got lost for a brief period on the way to the school and arrived with time to spare. We were greeted by welcoming students and educators. First on the agenda was a written language proficiency test. The test consisted of questions based on various aspects of the Chinese culture and heritage such as rivers, historical landmarks, cuisine and music. The test was entirely in Chinese, with not a word of English. Next was a speech. I wrote the speech myself and Mrs Hu helped me by translating it. I spoke about the benefits of learning Chinese. It is a rare and special opportunity that not many people get to experience in South Africa. I then recited a poem in Chinese. It was a beautiful poem which translates to: Facing the Sea with Spring Flowers Blossoming, which was written by a poet who was a genius. He attended the top university in China at the age of 15. He isolated himself from the world and then discovered that he had missed out on the wonders of the world and the human experience. The poem always uses the concept of “tomorrow”. How he will reconnect with his loved ones tomorrow, how he will find happiness tomorrow, as he hadn’t today.
We drove down to Cape Town on the Friday, the competition was on Saturday and we then drove back early Sunday morning. This allowed us to enjoy and share the beauty of our country with Mrs Hu. We stayed so close to Table Mountain, we were almost under it.
I received a prestigious award at the competition: a gold certificate and a small gift. The winners were two girls from the Pretoria Chinese School which is one of the only schools in the entire country that teach Chinese like we learn English and Afrikaans at Oakhill, on a day to day basis and from a young age. And so, I feel the competition was an amazing experience. I learnt so much and got to embrace the beauty of a different culture. We got to immerse ourselves in diversity and creativity. We were even treated to a show that could only be described in one word: world-class. It consisted of performances from masters of kung fu and jujitsu, Chinese opera and exquisite Chinese dancing. To see the grace, elegance and respect of the Chinese people was wonderful, as was sitting in a room full of young people who believed in the beauty of learning something new and challenging and valuing the importance of unity. It is incredible to be involved in something greater than ourselves.
Report: Kristin Groenewald