ELICOS ENGLISH COURSES
How time flies! It has been more than three years since I moved to Melbourne, and so much has happened in the blink of an eye. Melbourne is a very special city in terms of demography – many people from different cultural backgrounds are calling Melbourne home. I guess everyone somehow expected a regular level of “cultural shock” .
Melbourne has many wonderful features after one got through the initial “shocks”. Working at GBCA, I often enjoy the serenity and calm when strolling around the green spaces near the college, which are within a few minutes’ walk – isn’t that delightful? Especially as our college is only two blocks away from Central Station.
Yesterday we held a multicultural celebration at the college’s library. It was a short two-hours lunch gathering, but it reflected the unique charm of Melbourne in many ways. There were staff, lecturers and students from our college, as well as guests from the University of Canberra and Deakin University. Over 70 guests from many walks of life: different ages, different country of origins, have different heritage and different cultural backgrounds, all came together to celebrate a community that we established for ourselves.
The event was inspired by the Diwali festival and coincidentally this year’s Halloween as well. Some people showed up in beautiful Saris and others were in fun Halloween costumes like apes and witches – believe it or not, we were not the only ones dressed up when we walked around that evening…
Diwali (also spelt Deepawali) is regarded to be the Festival of Lights. It is one of the four major festivals celebrated by Hindus and a grand festival in India, usually taking place in the tenth or eleventh month of the Indian Gregorian calendar. To me, Diwali has a lot of similarities to the Lunar New Year in China. I enjoyed the many legends and regional stories shared by my colleges and students. They told me that on this day, fireworks and celebratory lights illuminate the night sky and purify our body and mind. Not only is it a metaphor of good defeating evil, it also serves as the symbol of knowledge fending off ignorance and enriching our lives – I love this metaphor.
On the other hand, Halloween is rather different from the fear-themed Chinese Ghost Festival and Ching Ming Festival. It is widely known as a popular holiday from the United States, but it can also be traced back to centuries ago in Europe, as it is related to the Iron Age Celtic’s “Samhain”. The ancient Celtic Savin Festival is the celebration of the end of the harvesting season and the beginning of winter. According to the Celtic story, the spirit of the dead would return to visit the living – now that’s rather similar to Ching Ming! I guess to some extent, Halloween commemorates the generations and experiences before us, farewellautumn or fall and prepare for winter… which can be confusing in the Southern Hemisphere as we’re actually preparing for a hot summer according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
Either way, it is wonderful to be able to find parallels between cultural groups.
My most memorable moment on the day was my first bite into the famous traditional Indian desert “Gulab Jamun” and “Rasgulla”. They were made from dairy products and sugar, black tea, rose water, rose petals, etc… I always believed that the experience of food can be the first step in experiencing attitudes, cultures and lives. I encourage everyone to go out there and learn about other cultures – starting with food!
The only imperfection of the day was that I didn’t win anything from the event’s lucky draw: movie tickets, JB Hi-Fi vouches, Google Home, and those cute little gift packages! Hopefully I will be lucky in GBCA’s upcoming Christmas event, and experience more stories and delicious food!
I know there’s no way we can list and try all the different foods, stories, cultures and festivals – but if we keep an open mind, and the willingness and openness to connect with one another, we will have a bigger and more wonderful world to share.