Stories From International Students at MCCC
December, 2005


My Home Town
By Kevin Zhao

My homeland is China which is famous for its centuries-old history and its resplendent culture. Whenever people hear the name of my country, they know a lot of things about it such as the Great Wall, a large population, Chinese Dragon, various kind of food and the word “China” itself. However, my country is so big that I have visited only a few places of it throughout my lifetime. The most memorable place to me is a city named Chengdu, which is my hometown.

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province which located in the southwest of China. I was born there and I have lived there for almost twenty years. Furthermore, I am only twenty years old right now, so I’d like to say that city has accompanied me for all the past time I have, and that is why I love it so much. Whenever I think about even a small piece of Chengdu, I feel so beatific that I couldn’t stop myself from miss it. It is absolutely a beautiful city full of vigor and vitality and also one of the best cities to live in China as its old nickname "Land of Abundance" and new nickname “East Eden.” Whenever I mentioned my hometown to a Chinese, he may think about delicious, hot food there and beautiful girls there immediately. Well, I have to say different people have different taste especially people from different countries, so, if you don’t like food and girls there, you can find something else good for you. Chengdu is not only the hometown of mine but also the hometown of giant panda, brocade, porcelain ware and lacquer ware.

Chengdu is too wonderful to words, so that lots of people go and live there. This becomes a problem day by day. As everybody knows, China is a country with a large population. If lots of people in China like that city and live there, you can image how crowded there is. Although the city is enlarging everyday, it is always not big enough for people who live there and people who want to live there. It covers an area of approximately three million acres, and comprises five districts and twelve counties with a large number population that more than ten million nowadays. Just a walk away, you might be able to see more than a hundred people in your sight. That really makes me having a headache. However, I still love there.

Every single part of Chengdu is familiar to me, and my friends there is the thing I missing most. I have lots of friends there and they are all nice guys. We had a lot of good time together in the past days and our friendship won’t be reducing by the increasing of the distance between us. They helped me a lot when I lived there and they still help my family there when I left there and came to the United States. Speak of which, my best friend there just got a sweet girl friend a couple of days ago. That is his first girl friend which is also the girl he has dreamed for a long time. I guess this is the happiest thing he has in his life so he told me as soon as he can. I am so glad to say congratulation to him and wish the happiness be with him.

Life in America is a challenge for every foreigner. Everything here is strange and also unknown. Native American people have their families, friends and memory here but we have another half of the world other than the United States, is our own homeland. Although you may have lots of new friends here, jobs here and even family here, the place where you were born will never be forgotten. Enjoy your life anyway, no matter where you are.

An Italian Christmas in America
By Maria Greco

My Family and I came to America in 1978 from Italy. When Christmas time came it was sometimes difficult because we couldn’t spend Christmas together with my grandparents so at this time of year we call them. Even though we lived here in America we continued our many rituals that we had in Italy.

During this special holiday we spend Christmas, and Christmas Eve, at my Uncle Dominic’s house. My uncle Dominic and Aunt Rose made this day special having all the family members together. The night before Christmas we went to his house at 7 and stayed till 12. Their house looked festive with decorations on the inside, and lights around the outside of the house. The event was celebrated in a big room in his basement with 20 or more relatives, and friends. The air would be filled with Italian, and English Christmas music. The foods would consist of zeppoles, cake, fruit, and wine that my uncle, and dad made. For the young people who couldn’t drink wine there would also be ice tea. Zeppoles are fried pieces of dough that my Aunt Rose would make with the help of my cousin Treistina, my sister Treistina, and me. My aunt would serve them plain, with powdered sugar, or with pieces of fish inside the dough.

On Christmas Day my family and I went to church. Christmas was always longer than a regular Sunday mass. The priest would give a nice homily, which would help us to remember the true meaning of Christmas. After church we all opened our presents at home. Then we had a big Christmas feast at Aunt Rose’s house. My aunt would be up at dawn cooking. The delicious smell of the food lingered through the house. One of my favorite Italian traditional dishes is artichoke stuffed with breading and sauce. When we were done with our dinner we had Italian cookies, and cream puffs. Once our bellies were full we relaxed and talked.

A Special Aid El Fitr in Algiers
By Yasmine Djerbal

Every year, Muslims from all around the world celebrate “Aid el Adha,” commemorating the spirit of the Prophet Ibrahim and how he was willing to sacrifice his son to fulfill Allah’s command. Instead of letting him do that, God replaced a sheep with his son. During the festival, Muslims who can afford to, sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of this sacrifice and Ibrahim’s devotion. The meat is distributed among family, friends and the poor, who each get a third share. Because of this, many poor Muslims are able to enjoy the unusual luxury of eating several delicious meals that consists of several meat dishes during the four days of the festival. It has become one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, and especially in my family. I can remember that all children eagerly waited for this celebration, and the wearing of the new clothes the parents would buy them.

In the morning of “Al Aid,” I remember I would be woken up by one of the most beautiful prayers of the year, chanted by the Imam, with a very soft voice, and a repetitive tone. When it began, we knew that we had to wait only a few hours before the sacrificing of the sheep. Often, we would give a name to the sheep, getting really attached to it, and the children would feel sad. Early that morning, you can hear the cries of the animals, as if they knew what was waiting for them. After the prayers, men gather around the sheep and, in a very dedicated and painless way slaughter the sheep. Women would come then on the scene to take care of the cutting and cooking of the sacrifice. They would also take care of the sharing of the meat, and what should go to whom. During this time, children and other members of the family come to greet first their parents, brothers and sisters, then their neighbors. It was personally my favorite part. We used to gather with my friends, and go see our nearest and closest neighbors and friends, receiving from them different kinds of cookies, cakes, and sometimes some money.

Often, in the afternoon, I would go with my mother to visit the different cemeteries of Algiers where many of my family members are. We often offer them hand made necklaces of Jasmine flowers that are filled with a fragrance that reminds me so much of my childhood, and the streets of Algiers at night.

In the late afternoon, my family and I would go to my grandparent’s house, where we would meet all my other aunts, uncles, and cousins. We were about forty of us, sometimes more, sharing sweets, amazing food, happiness, joy, and most of all, the pleasure of being together. I can still remember the children playing in my grandparent’s garden while the older cousins would be keeping an eye on. Many years later, we, the youngest ones took care of the children of the oldest ones, playing the same games, using the same tricks, and enjoying as much, maybe even more the pleasures of family reunions. I can still remember the laughs of our parents in the living room, the laughs of the children, and most of all the greatest feeling of love and affection from all those people to whom you meant so much, and meant so much to you.

Chinese New Year in Malaysia
By Ooi Han Koon

Holidays are a period of days that many of us like to have and look forward to celebrating. In Malaysia, there are so many holidays. There are holidays for pagan festivals which are based on the Malaysian 3 major races, anniversaries of important events, and religious holidays. The 3 major races, Malay, Chinese, and Indian have created significant cultures, customs, traditional foods, and events to Malaysia, therefore almost all of the holidays in Malaysia are to celebrate their pagan festivals. Chinese New Year is a very big festival, and also my favorite holiday. It is the longest holiday that gives me a lot of time to rest, and it is very important that I can reunite with my parents, and friends. Furthermore, I can enjoy a lot of delicious foods that I will never have during other days of the year.

The Chinese New Year is to celebrate the new year for the lunar calendar, the Chinese’s calendar, and also to celebrate the beginning of the spring in China. I was born in Malaysia, but not my parents, so they still go through daily life referring to the lunar calendar. We celebrate Chinese New Year every year; I have never been absent for this wonderful, and meaningful day. The Chinese New Year normally falls in mid-January of the western calendar, and we always have a week off from school, and 5 days off from work officially. But for Chinese, we are celebrating the new year for 15 days. During those days there is much praying, partying, eating, and gathering that promised a lot of happiness. I am always looking forward for this holiday because I can rest, and spend a longer time with my parents, and the rest of my family members.

Family reunion is a very important event for the Chinese. It is not only to welcome back all the family members for the day importantly; it’s strengthening the family connection. So in order to realize this important value in the family, we Chinese made this the day for us to reunite, and have a time together. I particularly enjoy these days because I can reunite with all my home school mates in the same time. We shared and talked a lot of the past memories that we have been together, and also the many stories of life to listen from each of them. Those who are married will have their happy family life, and those who are still searching for their life partner will fasten their feet to have one, this is the famous slogan that we always talk about, and it’s making a lot of fun, and unexpected surprises. I love having all my friends together for the wonderful moment in the Chinese New Year.

Holidays would never be complete without having a wonderful meal. The Chinese New Year’s Eve is the biggest night for family members. We all have to reach home by then for the reunion dinner. “Steam boat” is a hot wok filled with delicious soup, and a lot of other foods, like meat seafood, and vegetables, cooked together. And we share the food together. It is a wonderful moment for the family we talk about what we have been doing and also about what we are going to do for the coming new year. We have many different and unique foods for this particular festival. One of the main foods that we wil never miss is “Nian Kaow,” which is also named Kuil Bakal. It is a sweet pastry that is made of sticky rice baked in a bamboo basket. So far my mother makes the best “Nian Kaow” in my hometown. I still remember that I spoiled my mother’s “Nian Kaow” once. We are not supposed to talk about it when it is baking but that moment I just wanted to give compliments to my mother’s work, then the next thing I found all the rest have ugly face, I felt bad, but I learned from this experience. Beside this special pastry, we also make a lot of other delicious pastries, and cakes too, but it is an imitation from the west already. Normally these pastries are to serve those guests who visit us during the holiday.

Everyone who knows Chinese New Year will think of a red package with money. I’m an adult now, but according to my parents I’m still entitled to have the red packages from the family members or married friends. It is something that I should feel happy about, but Chinese New Year means a lot to me because it really makes me feel I have the most wonderful home, and special culture. No mater where I go, I will definitely remember this day as my favorite holiday.