I spent a week in China at the end of January. Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Japan for more than 20 years, and China is a just a few hours away by plane, it was my first time there.
I went to China because a close friend from college was getting married in Beijing and he asked me to be his best man at the wedding. Though he’s American, and lives in New York, he married a Chinese woman that he met through his international travels for work.
The wedding was a very joyful event, and that joy was experienced in two languages, with an interpreter providing the necessary Chinese or English through the proceedings. I speak only a few phrases of Chinese—so, of course, I was happy that I could also follow along in English—but I felt quite at home with the bilingual nature of the wedding.
And joy, I recognized clearly, needs no language at all to be felt by the human heart. Joy is an emotion, an experience, that’s beneath language, beyond language, a universal force that underpins and empowers the very different lives we live out all across this earth.
Joy, perhaps, is our basic reason for being.
And joy, as I continually stress, is also the most effective fuel for generating happy progress on this bilingual or multilingual journey. 😉
My first experience of China
While the day of the wedding was the height of joy felt that week, the whole trip was a joyful experience for me. Above all, I loved spending time with my friend—who I had only seen in person two or three times over the previous 30 years—and making new friends, too. I felt so comfortable with these people, so relaxed. The truth is, I tend to be more of a loner in my life offline so this feeling of close camaraderie was deeply appreciated and savored.
At the same time, everything else about the trip—the hotel, the food, the sightseeing, the weather—was fantastic. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I was planning this trip, but my first experience of China was so positive that I’m already considering ways that I can connect my work with the people there and make more trips to China in the future. (Feel free to reach out if you’re in China, or have contacts in China, and you could suggest some possibilities!)
32 pictures and a special giveaway
Here are some photos from my week in Beijing. They’re in roughly chronological order except for the wedding, which took place mid-week and has been bumped to the top.
Below the photos, you’ll find a fun giveaway of golden coins for Chinese New Year. (Chinese New Year starts today and lasts until February 19.) In fact, there will be two winners in this giveaway: the first name picked gets the golden coins and the second name picked, the runner-up, gets…well, you’ll just have to scroll down to see the special prize that awaits the second winner.
Giveaway for Chinese New Year!
There are two prizes, fresh from Beijing, in this giveaway, which means my kids will randomly select two winners!
The first name picked will receive this big bag of golden coins! (Okay, they’re really made of chocolate.)
And the second name picked will receive this big bag of spicy chicken claws!
The 2 winners in this giveaway are…
Deborah in the US
Angela in Italy
Congratulations to them both! (And, as it turns out, I have two big bags of chocolate coins so neither one has to take the chicken claws!)
To enter the giveaway, just follow these three simple steps…
1. Share this post with others via social media. Use the sharing buttons on this page or simply copy and paste this link. (On Twitter, please add @bilingualmonkey to your tweet!)
2. Leave a comment below with the following information. (And please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)
1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)
2. Your children and their ages (Example: Girl, 14 and Boy, 11)
3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Japanese, English, and Spanish)
4. Give an example of joy in your bilingual or multilingual journey. (Example: One of my favorite ways to promote joy—and exposure to the minority language—is by saying “dumb things.” For instance, just this morning I told my teenage daughter—who’s a bit on the short side and doesn’t keep her room very clean—that she’s breathing in the bad fumes from her unemptied trash can and this is “suppressing her growth hormones.” It was a fun and funny conversation and it also served the dual purpose of providing her with input in our target language while encouraging her to clean up her room! For much more on this “saying dumb things” technique, see Why Saying a Lot of Dumb Things to Your Bilingual Kids Is So Valuable to Their Language Development.)
3. All entries must be submitted by the end of Chinese New Year—that’s Tuesday, February 19 (Japan time). That evening, the comments will be printed out and cut apart to serve as entry slips for the drawing. The slips will be placed in a Hiroshima Carp baseball cap and I’ll have my kids each randomly select one winner. Remember, the first winner will get the golden coins and the second winner will get the spicy chicken claws. I’ll then contact the lucky winners by email and update this post with the results.
Thank you for “joining” me on my happy adventures in China! I look forward to seeing your entries in the giveaway!