xi's moments
Home | Africa

Hidden beauty and martial arts movies

By China Daily | China Daily Africa | Updated: 2017-04-23 15:47

During a research trip to South Africa last summer, Zhang Chi visited several deprived areas to learn about the conditions facing the people who live in them. The first slum she visited was on the western outskirts of Cape Town, where the residents had built temporary shelters from sheets of iron and strips of linen on plots of deserted land.

Thanks to frequent media reports, the dusty roads and congested settlements were nothing new to the 22-year-old senior at Yale University, who is majoring in architecture. Instead, Zhang was interested in discovering what lay behind the tumbledown walls.

As she walked in, she realized that they enclosed tiny courtyards. Even though they were only a couple of square meters, each courtyard was full of flowers and artfully arranged plants. Some even had wooden tables and benches, giving a feeling of a South Asian hotel garden.

Zhang was greeted by a woman standing by the road who invited the Chinese student to visit her house.

To Zhang's surprise, the wooden front door had been carefully painted light blue and the tiny garden was full of blooming plants.

"From the outside, the house looked extremely small, but as we walked in, I found it was actually divided into four rooms. The first was clean and tidy. It was illuminated by a ray of light filtering through a window in the roof and filled with the bright color of the purple bedsheet as well as pink and orange toys propped against the light-blue wooden wall. There were also three photos of relatives hanging on the wall. I was deeply moved by her love of life," Zhang recalls.

"During my interaction with other slum dwellers, I was impressed by their optimism and their ability to build a future for themselves. They should not be regarded as a burden on society - all they need is an opportunity to learn some skills and earn other people's trust."

Lee Joi-tin is taking a gap year before becoming a senior politics student at the University of Hong Kong. He has chosen to spend the year as a volunteer at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya.

As soon as the 21-year-old arrived, he began to introduce himself to the residents. "I'm from Hong Kong," he told them. To his surprise, this perfectly normal introduction was greeted with looks of disbelief.

"The refugees asked me to clarify what I had said. At first, I wondered why, but then I realized an area of the camp is also called Hong Kong," he says.

The refugees began watching martial arts movies from Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, according to Lee, and their passion for the movies was clearly demonstrated by the unofficial name of the area.

"After they realized the differences between the two 'Hong Kongs', they repeatedly told me how much they loved Hong Kong movies. They even asked if I had met Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee," he says.

"My colleagues and friends are curious about the One Country, Two Systems concept, and they often ask me why my mother tongue is Cantonese instead of Mandarin."

It is still rare for Chinese to work in the camp, where the residents are more familiar with the presence of Western volunteers.

So far, Lee has spent more than six months at the camp, working with the residents to improve educational programs established by a local NGO called Solidarity and Advocacy in Crisis.

"I have been in the camp for so long that even some of my American friends have been called 'Chinese' by the kids," he says with a laugh.

Guo Xiaojun contributed to this story.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349