A special celebration
By Liu Shaojie  ·  2024-05-30  ·   Source: ChinAfrica


Liu Shaojie (centre) with sta" members of Abiodun Metropolitan Schools

Thanks to the scholarship granted to me by the China Scholarship Council under the Project on Innovative Talent in African Studies, I had the incredible opportunity to spend six months living in Ibadan, Nigeria’s third-largest city, and study at the University of Ibadan. Intrigued by teaching and eager to gain insights into local schools, I applied to be a Chinese teacher at Abiodun Metropolitan Schools. I taught two classes every week: one with around 20 primary school students and another with around 30 middle school students. The primary objective of the course was to cultivate their interest in China and Chinese culture. I taught them simple Chinese characters and daily conversations using the textbook of HSK-1. What surprised me the most was the students’ enthusiastic response to my teaching right from the start. They were fully engaged in class, reading aloud with clarity, which filled me with a profound sense of achievement and even attracted other teachers to observe. I was also amazed by their aptitude for learning. Many of the children could correctly write Chinese words such as “good morning” and “good afternoon” after just one class. It was hard to believe that it was their first exposure to the Chinese language. Their eagerness to learn was evident as they willingly asked me to check their writing practice and even requested for homework to further their learning.  

Sense of responsibility 

The positive feedback and enthusiasm from the students encouraged me greatly, igniting a deeper sense of responsibility and passion within me. I was determined to impart as much knowledge on Chinese culture to them as possible. Therefore, during the Spring Festival, I designed a special course related to the Spring Festival, teaching the children how to greet each other in Chinese during this festive period. The classroom atmosphere was vibrant and heart-warming, with all the students actively participating in the practice sessions. 

It was the first time for me to celebrate the Spring Festival abroad. While chatting with local friends, I was surprised to find that many Nigerians were aware of the Spring Festival and knew that it falls later than the Gregorian New Year. Some expressed interest in joining Chinese students to celebrate the Spring Festival, and what amazed me even more was that many knew that this year was the Year of the Dragon. 


Liu Shaojie (centre) with students from his Chinese class

As an old Chinese saying goes: During the festive time of the year, people tend to miss their loved ones even more. Not being able to spend the reunion day with my family brought about mixed feelings and a sense of sorrow. However, spending this special Spring Festival with Chinese students and local friends turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We prepared a big dinner for Spring Festival according to traditional customs. Although the food was simple, we cherished the feeling of togetherness. We even invited our Nigerian landlady to join us.  

After the meal, we wanted to light some firecrackers which is also part of Spring Festival celebration. However, since the Spring Festival is one month later than the Gregorian New Year celebrated by Nigerians, the festive atmosphere had already faded. And it was already 10 p.m. when we finished dinner. We were hesitant about lighting firecrackers, worrying that we might disturb other people. But our landlady assured us it was okay as long as we stayed away from residential buildings. She also advised us to explain to the police that we were celebrating the Spring Festival if questioned. With a delicious meal and firecrackers, I felt like I had a complete Spring Festival celebration. 


The Spring Festival Eve meal cooked by Chinese students 

Fun with fireworks 

For Nigerians, the biggest holiday of the year, besides Christmas, is the Gregorian New Year, during which they also enjoy lighting fireworks for celebration. However, high inflation this year has turned fireworks from a common item into a “light luxury” affordable only by the middle class and foreigners. On the New Year’s Day, occasional sounds of small firecrackers and even fireworks could be heard, followed by bursts of laughter.  

My neighbours, two Algerian girls, had been setting off small firecrackers in the open space of the apartment. Hearing the sound of firecrackers ignited my desire for them, so I went to the town market with the locals to buy some for fun. A lady was selling different kinds of fireworks at the market. Although there were only a few types to choose from, I found many of my childhood favourites. This piqued my interest even more, and I bought several of each type. Local kids came to join me because it was rare for them to see fireworks, and they were all very eager to play with me. 

Upon closer inspection, I found out all the fireworks were made in China. I searched online and was surprised to learn that China has always been a major exporter of fireworks. According to data from China Customs, China’s exports of fireworks have been stable at more than 300,000 tonnes from 2016 to 2021. Witnessing Made in China going global filled me with pride. 

Despite the geographical distance between China and Nigeria, there are many things that connect the two peoples. Language and culture are no longer barriers to communication.  

The author is Master’s Student of Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University 

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