Growing up in China

Text read by Mary Peters

Wenya shares moments from her childhood.

I was born in September 1972 in Tianjin, China. My grandmother was a little disappointed because she wanted me to be a boy. What a surprise! Okay, I’m glad I’m a girl.

I lived at the university with my parents, my sister, and my brother. My father worked there as a professor in the political science department.

The first memory of my life is in 1976. Tangshan was devastated by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, and many houses in my hometown collapsed. So, all the staff and families of the school moved to the playground. I ran excitedly back and forth between tents and open beds, as free as a child in a primitive tribe, completely unaware of the worries and fears of the adults.

In 1979, I started school. I had to walk across the university campus to my school every morning. I smelled fresh toothpaste and soap, and there was the boys’ dormitory with shirts and trainers hanging on the windowsill.

I saw the students, with their lunch boxes, walking to the canteen to get their food.

I found the chemistry department building ugly. It was grey and white, cold, and impersonal. Why didn’t it have warm colours like the houses I built with my wooden blocks? How beautiful!

I loved the outdoor cinema in the summer. I loved lying in the playground, looking up at the star-filled sky and walking through the beautiful flower gardens that opened the gates of China that summer.

One day, a teacher in the foreign language department gave my mother a gift. It was a tea that foreigners drink. It’s called “Coffee”. My mother handed me a cup of black water the morning after. Oh dear, the foreigners’ tea is terrible! My mother explained to me that it was probably bad or expired. Twenty years later, I can’t pass up that bad, expired tea every morning.

Life is so amazing!

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Memories

Text read by Frank Peters

A narrative essay by Chahira, from Bejaia, Algeria

There are many stages in a person’s life that encompass a number of important experiences, beautiful moments that are never compensated, and perhaps have a profound and beautiful impact, which time cannot erase. The wonderful stage of childhood is considered the time of innocence, love, tenderness, and psychological comfort.

This time is special in the memory of every person. I wonder, what happy memories a child experiences during their childhood, which make him say “These were beautiful days” or “It was a wonderful time”?

Firstly, one of the most beautiful childhood memories is playing. Among the most memorable things that a person remembers are the games played with relatives or friends, or played in the neighbourhood, such as football, kites, and maybe some electronic games as well.

The girls also remember the dolls they owned, the hours they spent on hair cutting, sewing clothes for them, and the scenarios they did with them.

Also, we remember some delicious food, which we ate when were young. Even when searching for it in the largest candy store today, we do not find anything tastier than the piece of candy bought during one’s childhood. Or the popular dishes that we exchanged between neighbours.

Not forgetting even, the simple clothes that mothers used to sew for their children, to wear in seasons, occasions over their multiplicity, such as school uniforms, festive and wedding clothes, have not lost their charm.

Secondly, a childhood remains embedded in a person’s memory for life. It is one of the main reasons why a person relates to the land of their birth, known as the homeland. Knowing that in the homeland, the person lived the most beautiful days of one’s life, playing with friends, going for walks with the family and forming lifelong social relations and being able to acquire basic skills of walking, talking, listening, This is all-sufficient to fill the human heart with love for one’s land and country.

Thirdly, childhood days are distinguished by being stored in human memory as much as possible with beautiful memories, in which a person begins to learn things starting with words and how to deal with people, being attached to one’s parents and having the feeling of safety and reassurance. Actually, it is known in psychology, that the factors which help a person improve their mood and psyche, are by remembering all of the happy events in one’s childhood.  This period is considered a sensitive period in a person’s life. It cannot be compensated, no matter how high a person lives and achieves in life. No matter what age, a person will always relish the childhood memories and all that is contained with them. Finally, one’s childhood is the most beautiful thing a person can think of.  We know very well that we will never return to those days. All we possess of them are just pictures, memories and friends. Perhaps this is the reason why we know that we have lived joy and moments that will not be repeated. The special thing that is never soured by anything. So, the glory for every day we spent in between the hustle and bustle and joy.

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Monique & Bernard – Fieldwork, Simca, Theatre

Bernard

My sister, brother and I were raised by my grandparents because my father died when he was a young man. My mother had to go to work in the kitchen of the middle school in Wissembourg. I had to help my grandfather in the fields to find food for the cows and the horses. Every year during spring, I collected the green food, the hay in summer, straw in winter for all animals at home. We had cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. This was the beginning. When my grandparents retired, then, I helped the other farmers to earn money during the summer holidays in July and August. First, I harvested black currants, then raspberries, tobacco and then the hops. Then I harvested the fruit for the “Schnapps” and to conserve for the winter. We harvested mirabelles, plums, apples and pears. When autumn arrived, we knew that winter was at the door, we started to cut wood for the cold days. We also harvested the potatoes.


What I really remember was my friends telling me that they have a bicycle, a motorbike and even a television. I was 18 when we bought our first black and white television. But I had a very happy childhood. We helped the farmers, we had contact with others. We played football, we had fun. When I compare it with today, it is different.   My childhood was totally different. The technological progress is too strong. I prefer my childhood, we were outside, we had many friends.

When I was a teenager, it was good. There was dancing every Saturday night, we went to Chez Koebel for dancing. It was the highlight of the week. We drank Tomats (Ricard, Grenadine and Water).

My grandfather bought my first car for Fr 5000 (€900). I drove a Simca 1100. After 3 years I lost the engine on the street. I was the first in my family to have a driving license.  

Monique:

When I was between 7 – 9 years old, we played “theatre in the forest”. During July & August, children from Paris and Strasbourg came for holidays to visit their families in my village. Sometimes we played in the streets because there were not many cars. We played theatre in the forest. We created a nice place in the forest, created a round stage and put armchairs in the ground around the stage. We created costumes and a crown of leaves. We only performed for ourselves, not for our parents or other family members. We performed fairy tales and used our imagination. It was a creative time for the village children.


Playing with the children from the big cities was not too different. But they had different games to us, we learned from each other. We created small ships with the bark from the trees and we had sailing competitions in the fountains. It was very simple, but it was fun.
Later, because it was a tradition in our village, we washed some clothes in the fountains. There were two basins, one for washing and one for rinsing. To wash, we used a wooden washing board, soap (savon de Marseilles) and a brush. Every family waited for their turn. People watched each other cleaning their clothes and we had to ensure that the fountain was clean for the next family. It was like a “show” during the week, people met each other, exchanged village gossip.


We didn’t forget the housework, cutting wood, harvesting the vegetables from the garden and the fruit from the trees. In Autumn, after school, we harvested the potatoes. In September, when I went home after school, I smelt the fermentation of the apples. A neighbour had an apple press and I smelled the fresh cider and apple juice. We drank the juice, fresh from the press. For me, it was a nice time, we didn’t have many toys, played simple games.


When we were teenagers, it was the time of “La Boume”. We organised village discos, we went dancing but at midnight, there was a curfew and we stopped. There was discipline, but we still had fun.

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Fabienne – Big Tables and Family

I am from Oberroedern but there is “Mothernois “blood running through my veins, and I can tell you that I am proud of it.

I grew up in a family of five in which I was the youngest. We grew up surrounded by our parents, our grandfather and an uncle. We have always known big tables; this perhaps explains why I like to entertain today.

My village always had very dynamic associations. Theatre, choir, football, fishing and in recent years pétanque. There was only one restaurant where you could go for a drink, play cards, table football and tiercé on Sunday. I went there regularly with my father.

Our Sunday outings were punctuated as well. The Bistro, after Sunday mass, for a meal, and then off to Mothern, where we spent the afternoon. The whole family met and there were many of us. Our grandmother always prepared one of our favourite cakes, and at the end of the day, a toast was made.

Even today we meet again, but much less often. Mother Carnival, so well known, is the date that each member of the family reserves for itself and the joy is great for my aunt who is the last person living in our childhood home.

I was the only one who spent the summer there with my cousin, my grandparents, uncle and aunt. We were really spoilt, and the village was always busy. Lantern parades, fairs, village festivals.

In winter, when the carnival took place, we were waiting for the holidays to be able to celebrate it. The return to school was never easy, it was so good there.

I was really very close to my brothers and sisters with whom I spent unforgettable moments.

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Michèle – Childhood Miracle

When I was 5, one afternoon during the summer holidays, I was standing on a small wooden chair on the balcony in front of the kitchen of my family’s apartment. Leaning on the balcony, I looked at my brother Patrick, who was playing in the garden, in the sandbox.

Suddenly, he asked me: “Michèle, please, I want to enter the house, open the door for me!”

But my mother, who had heard him, said to me: “No, Michèle, don’t open the door for him, he just went out to play, he has to stay outside!”

I told my brother, but he got angry. He absolutely wanted to go home. So, discreetly, I got down from the chair and ran to the corridor to open the door for him.

At this precise moment, we heard a very, very loud noise, as if a plane had fallen on the house: in fact, it was the balcony of the upper floor which had collapsed onto our balcony, destroying it entirely!

I had just escaped death thanks to my big brother!

We have long kept this wooden chair, glued (but it lacked small pieces) in memory of this miracle!

En cliquant sur "Send", vous acceptez le fait que vos données inscrites ci-dessus seront utilisées par Frank Peters, Peters-Langues dans le but pour lequel ce formulaire a été mis en place. Aucune donnée ne sera utilisée dans un autre but, sans votre consentement éclairé, ni ne sera communiquée à un tiers. Vous pouvez à chaque instant demander l'accès, la modification ou la suppression de ces données en nous écrivant. /// Ich bin damit einverstanden, dass diese Website meine übermittelten Informationen speichert, damit sie auf meine Mitteilung antworten kann. /// I consent to having this website store my submitted information so they can respond to the exercise.