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Yinchuan, my home away from home

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By Bassam Salem Khaled Alsalehi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: Feb 15, 2022

[Yemen] Bassam Salem Khaled Alsalehi, North Minzu University

Bassam Salem Khaled Alsalehi [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Time flies. It has been five years since I left my home country, Yemen. And I feel so lucky to have come to China to study. As I look back on the first day I took the flight to Beijing, I remember everything clearly. My parents were waving goodbye to me. And I just looked at them until they become far distant away, which made me burst into silent tears.

Coming to China , I was shocked by the prosperity, wealth and development of this country. Beijing is such a big international city I will remember throughout my life. It was in Beijing that I started my “Chinese dream” and Chinese language dream. I thus kicked off my one-year study of Chinese. The difficulty of the language makes a lifetime experience for me.

It is widely known that Arabic and Chinese are two most difficult languages in the world. I made great efforts, solved countless problems and gradually I fell in love with the study of Chinese. And slowly, my Chinese became better, and I can have simple dialogues with local people. Meanwhile I was constantly struck by the prosperity of Beijing and the harmonious and happy life its people enjoy.

And this made me think about my motherland and its miserable people mired in prolonged wars, hunger, poverty and violence. Five years away from home, I do not know what is the real situation in Yemen. The only thing I can do is to read the news, and sometimes I sob in silence. Later on, I moved to Yinchuan, an oasis in the hinterland, and started my new life as a international student.

Yinchuan is a city of vigor and vitality. After lived here for two years, I started to call the city my home away from home. And I love plants, mountains, rivers and lakes here. In April 2015, I went to Yongning county in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to study Chinese. Gradually I became familiar with Ningxia.

People here are very friendly, people of Hui and Han ethnic groups live in harmony. I spent my holidays travelling all across the region with my classmates, from Xihaigu in the south to Shizuishan in the north. During the past five years, I went to many places in Ningxia. Whether in the city or in the rural village, each place has its unique cultural sites of interest and customs.

The campus of North Minzu University [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

And I gradually realized the dramatic developments and great changes that have taken place in Ningxia. The Yellow River nourishes the region, making it a coveted land of plenty. A land of vigor and vitality, Ningxia is a cradle protected by Helan Mountains and nourished by the Yellow River. Vast plain, flat and fertile farmland, convenient transportation network and comfortable environment make Ningxia a beautiful and livable region.

Having studied for two years in Yinchuan, I can speak much better oral Chinese. Later on, I did some short-term jobs during my winter and summer vacations in big cities in the south. I have lots of chances to practice my Chinese. The economy is booming in southern cities like, Shanghai, Hangzhou Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Quite often my Chinese friends tell me “Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou do not believe in tears.” My friends and I ventured to these cities. Through friends’ introduction, I started to sell cell phones and clothes. These jobs give me lots of real-life chances to practice my Chinese. I learnt a lot.

In September 2017, I went to North Minzu University to pursue my further studies in Chinese language and to pursue my dreams as well. The university is a big family gathering students of different ethnic groups in an amazingly beautiful campus. Here I made friends with students of various ethnic backgrounds in China, found a lot of new things and learnt distinct ethnic cultures.

As I keep studying hard, my Chinese becomes better and better. I love Chinese culture and Chinese food, and I have come to realize the cultural difference from region to region. And I have developed a special interest in Chinese dialects.

With the help of many Chinese friends, I can even speak some simple dialect sentences, which is really fun. I also like Chinese movies, music and TV plays. And I learnt some Chinese songs. Music has helped me further appreciate the beauty of the Chinese language.

The lake in North Minzu University [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

During the five years in Yinchuan, I have gradually integrated myself into this beautiful city, in the study and real life. Sometimes I will sit quietly in parks watching senior citizens dancing in unison. I like the life pace in Yinchuan, which is neither too fast, nor too slow, just fine and comfortable. A mobile phone in hand, I can do shopping, cash-free. In future, I plan to stay on inYinchuan to live and work if I have the chance.

During my study in China, I will “remain true to my original aspiration” and keep pursuing my “Chinese dream”. I will remember by heart the motto of North Minzu University “Unto a full-grown man in solidarity.” The moon shines with the fragrance of maple leaves. And I have blessings for my home country a thousand miles away. Please take my message to my family, I am well at home away from home. No sorrows, no worries.

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