Alumni Civility Hall (Hall 3) organised a Volunteer Tour to Sichuan during the Easter Holiday from 15 to 20 April 2017. Five students, Tina ZHAO (Residence Tutor, Alumni Civility Hall, Year 4, Accounting), Vincent LYU (Alumni Civility Hall, Year 2, Civil and Structural Engineering), SHENG Yixin (Alumni Civility Hall, Year 2, Public Policy & Politics), HU Zhinan (Hall 10, Year 4, Translation & Interpretation), and Najeed ALSHAKHSHIR (Alumni Civility Hall, Year 1, Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering) traveled to Chengdu together and volunteered as Panda Keepers. Here is Najeed’s sharing:
All my prior knowledge about Sichuan came from my friends’ descriptions of the place. My most prominent impression about Sichuan is its distinctive food culture: some friends have described their food as being always spicy to the point it is unbearable. Only upon invitation to the trip to Chengdu, Sichuan I have come to know of its significance for its panda conservation centers and its historic sites. Having shown at least a certain extent of interest for the aspects that made me perceive Sichuan’s character, I decided to take the chance while keeping my fingers crossed for what is hidden ahead.
The main landmark in the first day was the ancient Jinli Street. Our main aim was to try out different desserts from the food stalls and then head towards a restaurant for dinner. The most distinctive item from the food stalls was a so-called dessert seasoned with Sichuan’s chilli oil. Such an encounter is impossible in my local cuisine in Jordan where sugar is the main and the dominating ingredient. My favorite of all Sichuan desserts was the pineapple honey. As for our dinner, we have opted for a restaurant which mainly serves hotpots. I find hotpots to be a very engaging approach to gatherings. This, in my opinion, made the atmosphere of the restaurant quite interesting; it gave me the feeling that everyone was more into socializing than eating.
Days 2 & 3
Our next two days were spent in Leshan, where the main attractions are various religious sites. We visited a religious complex which encompasses the Giant Buddha as well as many other temples, some of which are even associated with other faiths. We also went to the peak of Emei Mountain, a site of particular significance to Buddhism.
The trip to Leshan was in fact my first ever visit to religious sites which are associated with other beliefs. I also had the chance to witness the practitioners of other religions firsthand. I was especially surprised to learn that some mentalities or actions can be strikingly similar between completely different faiths. There exist plenty of differences, too. In my opinion, this experience had a significant positive impact on my perception of others’ beliefs. Most importantly, similarities should be appreciated while simultaneously respecting the differences. I believe this was a remarkable experience in enriching my awareness and developing tolerance towards others.
Aside from the site visits, on the first night in Leshan, I finally got to try a hotpot with the local spicy dressings. Its distinctive spicy taste made it one of the best hotpots I have ever tried. The spiciness is sure prominent, but not in a painful way. I have had friends who previously described Sichuan as the land of the food geniuses; it indeed is!
Days 4 & 5
On the fourth day, we moved to Dujiangyan in order to volunteer at its Panda Base for two days. Throughout this period, we had three main tasks for each day. The staff would take us to our work site, which is a specific set of panda enclosures (each with its own garden!). The first task was to smash bamboo sticks in order to break them into smaller pieces; this makes it easier for the panda to consume their food. Due to the giant panda’s inefficiency in consuming the bamboo, the second task was to recover the leftover pieces of bamboo sticks and leaves from around the garden. The third task was to ensure that the panda house was kept in a good hygienic condition. This means that we also had to look for the panda’s leftovers throughout the enclosure and its garden to clean them up. Thankfully, they were not significantly odorous. After completing these three tasks, we will get the chance to observe and feed the pandas.
Since I usually had a preference for doing any work individually up until high school, this activity has given me another chance to experience the benefits of teamwork with Tina, Vincent, Yixin, and Zhinan. While it can be a curse that pandas are not part of the teamwork in reducing the mess in their enclosures, it was a blessing for having offered a very convenient environment to observe their lifestyle. There is a charm about pandas which cannot be easily described; their lazy lifestyle combined with their innocence somehow makes them adorable creatures.
In addition to panda volunteering in those two days, we also visited historic sites like the nearby ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system to know about its purpose and history. After the second day when we have completed our volunteering task, we left Dujiangyan and headed towards the museum of the Jinsha archaeological site. We were then invited to yet another hotpot restaurant by the relatives of Tina, the trip organizer. Their warm welcome and generosity made me immensely enjoy their company despite our language barrier: all what I knew in Putonghua was how to say “hello” and “thank you”, yet I was shy to do so for fear of getting the tones wrong. This was the point at which I finally realized the importance of strengthening my skills in both Putonghua and Cantonese.
Our final day in Sichuan was concluded by a visit to the Tang poet Du Fu’s thatched cottage and its museum. Since I am not proficient in Chinese yet, I mainly focused on learning about Du Fu’s life and history. Although I have gotten the impression that his life was unfortunate, I have highly respected Du Fu for his modesty, persistence and willingness to serve the people, while also taking note of the praise he got for his poetry.
The rare, special encounters of this trip made this experience memorable and fruitful. Exploring Sichuan’s cuisine and culture was definitely worth the try, where exploring its heritage has allowed me to broaden my horizons and raise my awareness and tolerance towards other cultures. Moreover, I was delighted to get the chance to observe giant pandas in addition to offering them a helping hand.
Writer: Najeed ALSHAKHSHIR (Alumni Civility Hall)
Images: Najeed ALSHAKHSHIR (Alumni Civility Hall), Tina ZHAO (Alumni Civility Hall), Vincent LYU (Alumni Civility Hall)
校友樂禮堂在2017年4月15至20日舉辦了一次在四川做義工的活動。趙藝婷（校友樂禮堂宿舍導師/會計系四年級）、呂唯碩（校友樂禮堂/土木結構工程二年級）、盛逸昕（校友樂禮堂/公共政策及政治二年級）、胡質楠（舍堂十/翻譯及傳譯四年級）和Najeed ALSHAKHSHIR（校友樂禮堂/機械及生物醫學工程學系一年級）五名宿生在為期五天的假期中，一同造訪四川成都大熊貓繁育研究基地當義工。以下是Najeed 分享的經歷：
文: Najeed ALSHAKHSHIR (校友樂禮堂)
譯: 王琪 (舍堂十)
圖: Najeed ALSHAKHSHIR (校友樂禮堂)、趙藝婷 (校友樂禮堂)、呂唯碩 (校友樂禮堂)