Arab girl studies and lives in China for 10 years |
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Arab girl studies and lives in China for 10 years

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By Ahood Ali Mashalla Rashwan | | Updated: Feb 24, 2022

[Egypt] Ahood Ali Mashalla Rashwan, Shandong University

Ahood Ali Mashalla Rashwan [Photo provided to]

Inspired by the theme of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2019 in March, which is “Shared Future, Concerted Action, Common Development”, one thought came up to my mind; Who do I have a shared future, take concerted action and enjoy common development with?

Does this slogan only refer to the relationship between peoples or nations? Can it describe the ties between an individual and a country? While I was contemplating, Ten Years, the moving ballad sung by Eason Chen wafted through the air. Ten years—what a specific and significant term for me, I couldn’t help thinking aloud. Therefore, the locked door flew open with a rush of memories. I recalled the wonderful encounter between me and China 10 years ago.

“Even if knowledge is far away from China, it must be sought,” said Muhammad, prophet of Islam. This is the first sentence about China, which is heard among many Muslims and Arabs, including me.

The Prophet tackled the acquisition of knowledge, inspiring his followers to keep learning and exploring no matter how difficult and how far the road is. Meanwhile, the remote and mysterious country of China has aroused a strong curiosity of me, which was the start of the beautiful romance between China and me.

“There is a dragon in the ancient East. The dragon’s name is China. There are people in the ancient East. They are all the descendants of the dragon ...” —— These lyrics described China that I knew before I began to study Chinese. At that time, I heard a lot about China.

Ahood Ali Mashalla Rashwan visits Buddha statue. [Photo provided to]

I heard there is a mysterious country in the remote east, whose name is China.

I heard China is the most populated country in the world.

I heard Chinese people have black eyes, black hair and yellow skin(Just like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. )

I heard dragon is their totem and you can see the creature in China.

I heard their language is Chinese, the most difficult language in the world.

I heard the Chinese culture is so different from Arabic culture that it is hard to get accustomed to.

I also heard Chinese people are indifferent to strangers and reluctant to help others.

So on and so forth. After listening to so much hearsay, I become more and more interested in China and wanted to learn more about this country, both its culture and its people.

After being admitted by the Chinese Department of the College of Literature, Cairo University, I felt very happy and a little nervous. I knew it is a new challenge and new opportunity as well. The picture of a new world is opened before me.The more familiar I am with it the more I love it. In retrospect, a skinny Arabic girl left her homeland for the first time and set foot on the land of China 10 years ago.

I still remembered the first time I enjoyed the Chinese food with chopsticks; the first time I spoke with Chinese people; the first time I made friends with Chinese; the first time I taught Chinese students Arabic. I also remembered it took 12 hours to take the slow train to travel from Dalian to Beijing; people used QQ and renren. com as the only social software; I had to make sure I brought changes, keys and major IDs when I went out.The memories of me and China 10 years ago are sweet and indelible.

Time flies. I have been indulged in the Chinese culture for 10 years. Chinese is a totally different language family from Arabic. Though the problems were endless and it was so hard for me to learn Chinese at first, I believe nothing is difficult if you put your whole heart into it.

Following the spirit of Yugong, the old man who moved mountains day after day with bare hands and persistence, I never gave up halfway so that I am able to master Chinese. Gradually I found the more I learn Chinese, the easier it becomes. My Chinese proficiency is improved rapidly.

Meanwhile, I was mesmerized by the richness and diversity of the Chinese culture. I noticed although there are differences between Chinese and Arabic cultures, they share many similarities such as traditional morality, etiquette and customs, and the way they conduct themselves in life.

After dealing with Chinese people for many years, I discovered that Chinese people, just like Arabs, are friendly and warm-hearted. Every time when I asked the way or met with difficulties, there are always good people who offer their hands for help. Like Arabs, Chinese people are humorous. I always laughed my socks off when watching skits (Xiaopin) of the Spring Festival Gala every year.

I deliberately watched some old skits several times, particularly those acted by Zhao Benshan and Song Dandan. In this way I can even recite the lines.

As a researcher of Chinese literature, I have read a lot of classic books of Chinese culture. Every time when I finished a book, a novel or a poem, I realized the truth that Chinese and Arab people share same feelings and sentiments, though huge difference exists between the two countries, such as distance, historical and cultural background, languages, religions, aesthetics and values.

Ahood Ali Mashalla Rashwan uses bike-sharing service in China. [Photo provided to]

The different environments lead to different ways of expression. We should make or create all kinds of opportunities to know each other, understand each other, learn from each other, respect and love each other.

Within 10 years, I learned the Chinese language, finished the study of master and realized the dream of getting a PhD. I have gone through three stages of life in China. Each time I arrived at a new place, made new friends and learned new knowledge, I was deeply impressed by many unforgettable stories. I made up my mind that I will write a book in the future to tell the world all the stories between me and China.

Ten years’ journey is not an easy and unforgettable one. I sincerely thank my family for giving me all they have to support me to study in China. I also genuinely thank the Chinese government to endow us chances to further understand China. I thank all the teachers who accompanied and helped me grow all the way.

I thank all of my Chinese friends who keep helping me kindly. I thank the warmth and friendliness of Chinese who I only met for once.Ten years ago, I was attached to China. During these years, we witnessed the growth of each other.Ten years later, we will make the world hold us in high esteem.

The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).