The 14th Chinese Bridge Competition features 133 contestants from 97 countries and is a cultural event like no other. This year Griffith Uni student Shannon has the honour of representing Queensland in this global contest of Chinese language and culture. Congratulations Shannon and good luck – 加油 (jai you)!
大家好 (DaJiaHao – Hi everyone)!
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Shannon and, as you probably have already gathered, I am currently a student at Griffith University. Having competed, and won, the preliminary round for a chinese competition called “Chinese Bridge” (and no, I’m not talking about the card game), I now have the opportunity to go across to China and compete internationally.
Hopefully you will find this blog as interesting as I am sure I will find this competition challenging, and from past experience in this wonderful country, I am sure my hosts will never fail to keep me on my toes.
Travel day! After an early rise with very little sleep, it was off to the airport to begin the journey. Being my first time travelling on my own to China I was a little aprehensive, however, for the most part everything was smooth sailing (and with an open bar and good tasting food on the plane, how could it fail to be?). The main issue came with my arrival at my final destination. Having missed the sign I was looking for, I spent the next half hour or so wandering the foyers of the airport like a little lost foreigner lamb, trying to find the person who was supposed to pick me up. With no meeting point and no contact details (and it already being past midnight), I was starting to fret a little.
At last I found them along with the person who was to be my new room mate for the following week and things were starting to look up again. Ha. Ha. Upon arrival at the hotel at about 1:30 in the morning, we were met with the sight of a camera set up in the foyer and instructions to give a brief self introduction (all in chinese of course) – just what you want to do when you are tired and disheveled after a full day of travelling. At this point I should add that my room mate’s Chinese is amazing and considering everything is told to us is in Chinese, I would be truely lost without her. Now it’s time for the few short hours of sleep left to us before it is time to face the new challenges of the following day.
Up and at it by 8am, the first thing on the menu was a photo shoot and filming. Once over, it was off to fill our rumbling stomachs and have a quick explore of the surrounding vicinity. The morning passed rather slowly with more contestants arriving and having to clarify certain points on the up and coming competition. Once everything was sorted it was free time for my room mate and myself, so we decided to meet up with an old friend of hers who, luckily enough, happened to live nearby. The afternoon was thus spent perusing shops and sites until the heavens opened upon us to shower us with its wet love and, eventually making it to the dry refuge of the underground, we proceeded to then make our hour long journey to find hot pot for dinner (Beijing is a BIG city). Unfortunately, after arriving weary and sore footed, we discovered the mile long line that awaited us and so had to turn tail and jump street to another, not so crowded, hot pot place. Needless to say, we caught the taxi back this time.
With all of the contestants finally arrived and settled in, it was time to begin activities. As the competition does not start until about day 6, it is a concoction of touring Beijing and having meetings in preparation for what is ahead of us. The first stop was Tianamen Square where we were welcomed by a bright morning sun, gentle breeze and various other Chinese tourists. From there we proceeded to the Forbidden City, followed by lunch and an excursion to the Summer Palace. I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for the amount of walking we were about to do and as such were all quite tired (and sunburnt) by the end of the day and looking forward to dinner, quickly followed by a shower and bed. Evidently we were kidding ourselves however, as after dinner it was straight to the meeting room where we proceeded to sit for the next hour or so while we had various speakers and details given about the competition. If we were all tired before, I think about most of us were dead on our feet by the time we were released around 10pm, and dreaming of nothing more then a soft pillow to lay our heads down upon.
Up and at ’em, rise and shine! Down stairs again by 8am and out the door not long after. The first stop of the day was at the Confucious Headquarters where we were given free run to walk about the museum and explore to our hearts content. Accompanying this was something I suppose you could call an arts demonstration section, wherein masters of paper cutting, charm making, sugar blowing and weaving displayed their skills, making presents of their crafts and allowing us to choose whatever we liked. As you may imagine, the sugar blowing was quite popular and there were many a student walking around with sticky fingers afterwards. Following this was our second meeting of the trip, which included speakers from the institution and the competition and various rumbling stomachs from the crowd. It wasn’t too long, however, before we were back on the bus and on our way to lunch; a massive feast in a luxurious building that easily managed the multitudes of contestants that were dining together. It was just as well we ate well too because it was off to the Great Wall where those of us who avoid hill climbing as a general rule of thumb, gave our quads a great work out on the ridiculously steep incline and knee high steps. Needless to say though, the view was amazing, and even with the sun trying to bake us when it could, with the aid of a gentle breeze, the umbrella sized hat that I had bought and the occasional cloud skidding across its path, it was quite a pleasant walk all in all. At last it was finally time to return and after another photo or two on our way back down, it was in the car and away to dinner and now, hurrah hurrah, we finally have time to sit back once again, put our heads down….and scribble like crazy as we desperately revise for the looming competition. There ain’t no rest for the wicked as they say. Haha!
Travel day number two! Seperated as per usual into our continent groups, we were sent at different times to Changsha (the capital of Hunan Province) where the competition was waiting for us to begin. Somehow our group drew the lucky straw and were sent in the morning flight over, which landed us in Changsha around lunch. Not only did this mean that we had the next half a day to rest, relax and squeeze in some last minute revision, but also that we were there for yet another feast for dinner. The American group was after us and were supposed to have flown not too long after we left. Unfortunately, their plane was delayed by a few hours meaning we were already half way through dinner before they arrived. Poor things. So all in all the day was a fairly quiet and much needed break to prepare for goodness knows what tomorrow will bring.
“goodness knows what tomorrow will bring.” Ha.ha.ha. What today brought was definitely a challenge, and for most, probably not a pleasant one. At this point I should mention that at the start of the competition everyone was given a bag of things, including a question bank for the up and coming written test. Everyday and night people were studying furiously from this booklet, trying to memorise the answers to all 200-and-something questions which included short answer as well as multiple choice, true or false and connect-the-answer. In the morning, we were taken straight from the hotel to the written test and started pretty much immediately upon arrival. The first surprise was that there was a listening component that none of us were even aware existed. That was interesting. Following that was a long list of never seen before questions. I think there were about five questions in total that were from the question bank we had been given, and as you can image, after such furious study and feats of memorisation, some of the other competitors were…surprised…to say the least. The test carried us pretty much over to lunch after which were the cultural performances. As with anything of this sort, there were some averages ones and there were some that turned you just about green with envy. For my own performance, a chinese fan dance X ballet hybrid, things went fairly smoothly. My habit of having a mind blank mid performance didn’t desert me this time either however and I was once again having the exhilarating experience of improvising mid-dance. Luckily for me no one seemed to notice and it ended without a hitch (yay!). By the time everybody had finished it was already late afternoon and we were all looking forward to dinner and a break. Alas, once again this hope was foiled, though this time for rehearsals for the show (I should perhaps mention that the competition is being broadcasted on TV and filming will be officially starting tomorrow). The set, like all reality sets are I suppose, was quite extravagant and looked absolutely amazing. It was also undeniably fragile, which some found out after trying to sit on the foam railings. Not such a good idea as it turned out to be. It was only after a lot of energetic smiling, waving and walking that we were finally released to dinner and at last to bed once again.
To be continued…
Shannon is currently representing Queensland at the Chinese Bridge competition in China. Chinese Bridge is a global competition for hundreds of Chinese language students from around the world and is sponsored by local Confucius Institutes including the Griffith University Tourism Confucius Institute and UQ Confucius Institute.