Chinese Dragon Lights at Soldier Field in Chicago {April 27th, 2018}

The Dragon Lights was an exhibition of Chinese lanterns, cultural performances, demonstrations, as well as popular products, handicrafts, and food. I found out that this exhibit was coming to Chicago after being bombarded with SnapChat messages from my fellow StarTalk Chinese classmate, and we immediately decided we had to go!

The Dragon Lights exhibited numerous displays of Chinese lanterns: pandas, koi fishes, dragons, bears, Chinese warriors, families, gates, etc. They were very beautiful and intricate! I had never seen anything like them before! I really can’t do much explaining in this post so please, simply, enjoy these photos:

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Spot the difference!

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These dragons were constructed with tiny jars filled with colored liquids!

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There were also cultural performances scheduled throughout each day; however, it was raining while we were there, so they had to cancel some of the performances. Though, we were able to watch two very interesting showcases. I believe the ones we missed were martial art performances.

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Peacock Dance (Chinese Folk Dance)

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The dancer was very thin, but she had such defined back and arm muscles! So talented~ (And she must have been so cold being rained on…)

Besides walking around and catching up with my friend Becca, I think the best part of the exhibition were the stalls with Chinese handicrafts and products. Becca and I pulled out our Chinese skills (if we can even say skills) to talk to the vendors.

It started raining a lot more and it got super cold at the end of the night, so we left early to indulge in Chinese food. The best ending to a great day.

Website of the Dragon Lights: http://dragonlightschicago.com/

  • The Dragon Lights exhibition lasted from March 30th to May 6th

Thanks for reading this post! It is quite late (the last month of senior is crazy, okay!) but better late than never? I have also been really sick these past two days (which is why I was able to write up this post XD) but my next post will be about my second NSLI-Y event! I organized a bubble tea social with a group of alumni as well as the Midwest DIR. Stay tuned!~

  • Emma 엠마

Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion Celebrating Chinese New Year (Feb 17th, 2018)

February 17th, 2018

你好!My Startalk Chinese class came back together today in order to celebrate Chinese New Year~ I carpooled with my friend Becca, and we were both super excited to see our classmates again. The director of the Startalk program planned this reunion at a Chinese Restaurant about 30 minutes from where I live. And, wow, it was so crowded. There were so many families and couples there. The line was out the door! I guess this place is a crowd favorite for ringing in the New Year!~

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10/10 I would definitely recommend!

Becca and I were the first people to arrive so we met 胡老師 and her husband at the front of the restaurant until they could clear a table for us.

We started off the afternoon with a little test. Our director gave us four slips of paper and we were told to write down four characters to then be placed in a box. The director would pull random slips out throughout the lunch, and the winners would receive small prizes: candies and pastries. Then, before we started eating, 胡老師 taught us how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese.

新年快樂
Xīn-nián-kuài-lè
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Becca, Citlali, Adrienne, and I

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Citlali, Adrienne, Elaina, Bruce, and Magalie

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我的朋友!

We also learned a lot about Chinese New Year. This year, Chinese New Year starts on February 16th which officially begins the year of the dog! (My zodiac sign is a rabbit~) Many people ring in the new year by cleaning their entire house and by decorating it with lanterns, calligraphy, and posters with poetic verses. Homes are filled with a lot of red! And on New Year’s Eve, families have reunion dinners– kind of like the one we were all having together!

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Such delicious food!!!

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For dessert, we had these pastries with filling that was made partially from egg yolks

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After eating, we played a couple of more games to try to earn points for prizes. We were taught the characters for Happy New Year and then we were given them, shuffled, and had to put the characters in order the fastest. We also played this game that involved our director holding up a piece of paper with a number (in Chinese characters of course) and then we had to quickly write a sentence in Chinese with the same number of characters. It was intense!

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Prizes for winning the games!

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Our director gave us training chopsticks shaped like ninjas. XD She told us that her 20 year old son can’t even use chopsticks! Fortunately, I do not need them, but they are adorable!

Lastly, 胡老師 talked to us about red envelopes during Chinese New Year. They are red packets filled with money given to kids, family members, friends, and coworkers to wish them a good new year and lots of luck. It is custom that once you get married, you should start giving out red envelopes. Our director all gave us “symbolic” red envelopes each holding one dollar. She explained to us that the tradition started off with small amounts of money but now, the custom has become more costly for the givers. (Especially when it comes to family members having to give money to the children in the family.)

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1. Accept the envelope with both hands 2. Give a greeting and express thanks 3. DON’T open the envelope in front of the giver!

At the end of the reunion, we took some group photos together and the individuals with the most points were able to choose a prize. There were so many prizes: Chinese coin purses, t-shirts, Chinese candy, chopstick sets, etc. I picked out this gorgeous set with 4 chopsticks and 4 chopstick rests~

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The Startalk Director (and my Chinese professor) with Becca and me~ ❤

And that was all for our reunion! It was a lot of fun being able to see all my classmates again (and eat some really delicious foods). Today has really motivated me to get back into my Chinese studies! It was nice being able to use it with everybody. Currently, I’m hoping to be a student helper alongside my director during this summer’s Startalk program! (Because I am too old to actually partake in it once again) I also found out that Lewis University’s Startalk is adding Russian this summer! How cool is that?!?! We will see how my summer plans work out 😉 Thank you for reading! 謝謝!再見!

  • Emma (敏娜)

Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival

你好!This post is a little late… about four months after the Mid-Autumn Festival to be exact. But, I am finally getting around to making this post after collecting all my photos as well as researching more about this Chinese holiday.

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So this past summer (2017) I participated in a Startalk program to learn Traditional Chinese. I spent about 5 hours every weekday at a local university learning how to speak, read, and write Chinese for 4 weeks. Startalk’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. citizens speaking critical languages, and it is funded by the National Security Agency (NSA). This summer was a blast, and I made a lot of really good friends from different high schools all around me. In order to keep us engaged with Chinese and to allow our classes to “stay” together, the director of my local Chinese Startalk program planned a reunion for the students. We would be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival– eating delicious food, learning about the holiday, refreshing our Chinese skills, and just hanging out with friends we haven’t seen in awhile.

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PC: Examine China

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival that gets its name from (you guessed it!) the fact that it is usually in the middle of autumn. (The festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese calendar.) The Chinese celebrate this festival by having dinner with family, playing with lanterns, flying lanterns, worshiping the moon, and more. And of course, food is plentiful!

We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival and had our reunion on October 7th, 2017 (Saturday). This date, inconveniently, was the same day I took my SAT Subject tests. Therefore, I was a little late to the festivities because I had to deal with SAT Spanish and SAT Literature and when I did get to Lewis University, my classmates were playing games to refresh our memories on Chinese and practice new words and phrases.

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So happy to see everyone again!!! ❤

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Before I arrived, my classmates had eaten these flaky, sweet pastries. I later learned that these pastries were Taiwanese Sun Cakes, and they were very delicious!~

To practice out Chinese, we played this game that was very similar to Charades. We were given slips of paper (2 or 3 each) which had vocabulary words written on them. We had to get up in front of everyone and act out the word without any sounds. If someone guessed it, then both the guesser and the actor would get a point. (Points were important because there were “prizes” to be given out!) It was a lot of fun and Bruce acting out “Mother” will always be my favorite thing! XD

After games, we had our Mid-Autumn Festival feast! (Which was what everyone was looking forward to~)

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They got SOOO much food catered! It was crazy to see so much food for not that many Chinese students. (Lucky for the director, high school students know how to eat XD)

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Not every student was able to make it :/ However it was still very nice to catch up with everyone (and talk to those who I did not have a chance to during the summer).

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Reunion photo with Class 2’s teacher (My class’s teacher was busy :/) and the director of the program (and my professor for my online Chinese course at Lewis).

After dinner we learned about (and obviously ate) Mooncakes which are traditional Chinese pastries eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Mooncakes are usually circular or square in shape with a pastry exterior and a sweet filling. There are many things that are used in the filling for the Mooncakes: Lotus seed paste, fruits, red bean, nuts, dates, etc. Mooncakes are very popular and are often offered as gifts to family, coworkers, and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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The Mooncakes were purchased in gift boxes because of how often they are given as gifts.

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Mooncakes often have really intricate details on the outside!

Our director purchased two types of Mooncakes: The first having pineapple filling and the second having a filling made out of dates. Mooncakes can be considered an acquired taste. Some of my classmates were not fond of the taste or texture or both. However, I found them really tasty! (Even though I had never even eaten dates before this day!)

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Becca trying to be funny! XD  我爱她 ❤ ❤

After we stuffed ourselves with all the Chinese food we could get our hands on, it was time to start wrapping up the reunion. Throughout the day we were accumulating points if we had won any of the games in order to pick prizes at the end. (Those with the most points got to pick first and then so on down the line.) Unfortunately, because I was the last student to show up (As if the SAT Subject Tests were not bad enough! haha jk…), I had the lowest amount of points which meant I was to pick last. I received an American candy bar XD It was still greatly appreciated, however. (Though I definitely had enough to eat already!) But there were some really great prizes: Chinese textbooks, Chinese books, Chinese music CD’s, Taiwanese scarfs, and notebooks.

The biggest prize of all (at least for me) was the fact that the director of Startalk needed to get rid of all the leftover food so we were allowed to take home as much as we liked. So, of course, I made myself a nice plate for dinner.

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Sam getting his Ziploc bag for leftovers ready!

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Bruce bringing home a whole box of leftovers! #goals

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My dinner for the night XD 谢谢老师!~ ❤

And that was my Startalk’s class reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival! It was a lot of fun to come back together since we had not seen each other for almost an entire 3 months. Additionally, I was talking to my Chinese professor a couple weeks ago, and she is trying to have another reunion in February for Chinese New Year!~ I am excited to see what she plans for that! (This reunion happened today: February 17th) I will write a blog about that soon!~ 谢谢!再见~

  • Emma 敏娜