Should I be learning Arabic instead of Chinese?

eb86ef91-26ec-42a6-ba80-8fae94ebd3d3My religion never puts me in a box, but everyone else seems to try to.

For the past month or so I’ve been living without my Mac (laptop). Woe, 1st world struggle. Although most might not believe me when I disclose that I actually don’t like technology and social media (or our dependance on it), it was stressful trying to make it through the hurdle of end of year classes (and extra-curricular responsibilities) without my work files etc. In terms of losing ‘prized possessions’, I’ve always been scared of losing my videos and photos. I’ve lost things before and at the end of the day you just move on. A few days ago I was relieved to have had everything restored. How does this tie in to the title of this post? 等一下 and hold on a moment.

A few days ago I visited an acquaintance who fixed my Mac. By fix, he simply replaced the hard drive cable from inside the Mac. This is something no-one dares to teach at the Genius Bar, so I’m telling you instead. Also, pls back up your laptop. But moving on. Eventually he decided to navigate my religious identity. He pointed out that I was wearing a headscarf and that it probably was not for fashion purposes. So yes, I’m a Muslim. I can’t remember the specifics of our conversation because we then spoke for a while on topics ranging from Islam, the commercialisation of Christmas, and loneliness in the UK. It was really interesting, but I sensed an undertone of Islamophobia.

He said that he didn’t want to sound ignorant, but I said I didn’t mind answering his questions. After confirming my religion, he told me he saw a strange woman on the tube (London train) recently. He said there was a woman sitting opposite him with her eyes closed and clearly muttering something to herself. He asked me “is that normal in Islam?”. Reactionless I responded, “was she listening to music? or maybe she was meditating”. He was adamant that she was praying. Fair enough. He told me that he thought she was trying to squeeze in an extra prayer during her commute. I explained that Muslims do pray five times a day, but it involves prostrating and moving from a standing to sitting position. Although people who are ill do sometimes pray whilst sitting, and I’ve seen people pray on aeroplanes using the small seat table, it was unlikely that she was performing that prayer. I wanted to suggest she may have been reading a dua, but I did not have it in me to explain this one. ‘Dua’ also translates as ‘prayer’, but is more of a supplication and not a physical act. He mentioned the woman on the train again a while later and in other words said she looked crazy.

When we were waiting for the Mac to restart he decided to ask me what I was doing. I told him I was reading an undergrad degree in Chinese Studies. Like most people, he thought it was quite strange. However he was insistent that the weird part was that I was not learning Arabic. According to him I should have been learning Arabic instead of Mandarin, and perhaps be pursuing Middle Eastern Studies rather than Chinese. “But you must be so good at Arabic, why are you doing Chinese?” he asked. “I can read Arabic slowly but I don’t understand any of it. I’d love to learn it one day but I find the Chinese language very interesting” I replied. This went on for a while. I told him that religious scripture in Islam is written in Arabic so Muslims are required to at least learn how to read it it, but I wouldn’t understand what it means without translation. (Sidenote: I was recently gifted my second Chinese Quran. It has Chinese and Arabic side by side, and I found that the Arabic is easier to read and the Chinese is easier to understand!😂).

Somehow we moved on to the topics of judgement, and I told him how Muslims’ acts are dealt with according to their individual intentions; to divine intervention and how as an atheist he thought it was crazy for people to be praying to something that does not exist; and so on. At some point in the midst of this he asked if it was okay to ask about ‘Muslim things’ and of course I said it was fine.

We spoke about some interesting things (and I haven’t even touched on the ‘loneliness’ issue) but it got me thinking. I also want to point out that for a moment that he is a nice guy. Anyhow I got to wondering why people expect me to be learning Arabic instead of Chinese? Or why it is expected for me to be pursuing something that seems more ‘typical’ of a Muslim.

My first encounter with one of my professors was during Oxford interviews. He awkwardly half shook my hand and apologised for the physical contact between myself and a male like himself. As I was just sitting down for the interview to begin, he asked me:

“Isn’t this a bit strange for someone of your background?”

“What background?”. I thought to myself but not to jeopardise the interview I did not ask aloud. Maybe he expected me to be studying Law or Medicine. After 3 years I’m realising that maybe the ‘background’ was being Muslim. Or maybe he was talking about something else entirely. I never got to ask him, but if you’re interested I’m sure I could talk about racism at Oxford another time. I mean have you seen the admission stats?…

I’ve lost my focus a bit now but I realised there’s so much to say and I apologise if it’s not wholly coherent. I will probably do a separate analysis of my identity at some point because of an exciting project I’ve become part of. I’m an affiliate model for a project that aims to empower women of colour. I’ll leave it at that till things become more public, but just the group shots I’ve seen so far are amazing!

So back to where I was initially. Why should I be studying Arabic? I’d love to learn Arabic in the future because it’s a beautiful language, but I don’t see the need to only ever pursue things that are remotely Islamic because I’m a Muslim. I can do whatever I want and I know my own limits. The same goes for you. Some people have problems with my beliefs or the way I dress, but so long as I’m not hurting anyone, I couldn’t care less~

Some people tell me to respond to ‘negativity’ I’ve encountered with profanities, but I’ve thus far always opted for patience and trying to offer information. I usually see the good in people and some people have called me naive in the past (maybe the two are linked, who knows) so passive prejudice usually goes over my head till I reflect on it later or if I’ve retold a scenario to someone and they react in disgust/shock.

I don’t always like to share my views on Islamophobia or racism because I feel like our newsfeeds are oversaturated with the same sentiments. I sometimes share negative encounters I’ve had with people because whilst I’ve become accustomed to certain attitudes, many people don’t even know they exist. I talk about things that are important to me, but the overly ‘social justice warrior’ thing is not for me. However recent reflections made me think of offering a new view to the table.

I believe in tolerance and acceptance, lot’s of people do. However from my recent experiences it seems that the efforts of Muslims being accepting of other beliefs is not often reciprocated.

Atheists at my university say similar things to the man who fixed my Mac. Things along the lines of ‘religion being crazy’, ‘believing in nothing’ and so forth. How awkward when a person of faith like myself is sitting right there. They’re entitled to their views, but why condescend views that are dissimilar to your own? Muslims get a lot of hate, but so many of us persevere through it. In many cases Muslims feel the need to go beyond what they are expected as basic good humans in order to prove that they aren’t the same as muslims who are posed negatively in the media. Why must we do all of this if we are not awarded basic respect in return?

Sidenote 2: a friend responded to the picture at the start of this post by telling me to point out the Muslim tradition/hadith (saying) of ‘pursuing knowledge even if it means travelling as far as China’ (已经住在中国的穆斯林会理解这个俗话表达追求知识会使你去远方的地方), and how I was achieving that in a literal sense by studying Chinese haha. But my associate was not Muslim so they would not have known of such saying.

I didn’t originally think this post would extend in this direction, but I guess that’s what blogs can do. I hope no one is triggered, I really don’t mean to offend. While I’m on the topic of direction, I’ve noticed over the years that some of my most popular posts are those to do with ‘life advice’, or those that offer life lessons For instance ‘Being busy and idioms to help’ and ‘Blind men touching the elephant’. I am still going to continue writing about East Asia (languages & culture etc), but I want to formally acknowledge that I may also continue to write posts like today’s piece. I basically wanted to highlight the popularity of ‘lifestyle’ posts on my blog in two aspects. One being through fables and sharing advice, and the other on exploring social issues. Looking at the timeframe of my blog, the latter is more of a recent development. Hopefully this blog will also be getting a new design, but I’m holding on to a promise that was made to me a few year back😅

Lastly before I forget, a few weeks ago I was keen to share a spontaneous story I thought of in Chinese. But then my Mac broke down. Now that things are running in order again, I’ll see how much of the story I remember. Disclaimer: my stories tend to have dark narratives ✌🏼

If you want to read more of my content, the few phrases highlighted in blue in this piece lead to other relevant posts. Have fun exploring~

If you don’t tie yourself to stereotypes, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.

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         R&B + a candle with petals

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#Pray it Doesn’t Rain

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牛津城市无家可归者问题

Dear readers I have some exciting news for you!~

Today is my 21st birthday, and that’s not even the exciting part. For the past few months (and painstakingly for the past few weeks) I have been independently working on a side project of mine entitled ‘Pray it Doesn’t Rain’. The project is a short film or documentary if you will on the problem of homeless in the city of Oxfordshire. The video has been released today and I would love for you all to watch it.

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV_5reA1HVY&feature=youtu.be 

I have to write an article about the film soon and I have other administrative tasks such as sharing the video through emails and so I have decided to devote my time to promoting this video and postponing birthday celebrations for a few days. I am a student at the University of Oxford and I was surprised to walk past homeless people on the streets everyday whilst I am living in Oxford during term time. Sure I attend meetings and I do odd bits to help, but I thought I would attempt to use some of the skills I have so that I may at least help to raise awareness of the problem so that higher powers will be alerted to move closer towards a solution. That’s why I do sincerely invite you to take the time to watch this and share it with others. My aims are to provide a platform for those less fortunate to us who are often not even given the chance to speak, as well as raising awareness on an important issue.

The video was given its name as I have often reflected on how grateful I am to have a roof on my head as I am aware that there are people without shelter who are often rained on and deal with other extremities. Of course, I am also referring to rain in a metaphorical sense as well as in a physical sense, as I wanted to highlight how people are often harsh and unkind to the homeless.

I will edit this post in due time to share the article once it has been (written and) published. I wanted to write on here first, and now it seems like I may have to take inspiration from my musings if I can’t think of what I want to convey.

The news I wanted to share however doesn’t quite end there. Perhaps you may have figured it out for yourself by now but recently I have also been making YouTube videos. I will talk about that in a separate post as that deserves for me to reveal a bit more about my identity. Although you can learn most of that for yourself if you take a look at my videos~

So yes, this year I have been heavily involved in content creation for various University projects (in fact some stem from the past few years) as well as now making videos for my own channel. My channel is called GoodLuckNabs, quite similar to the name of this blog you might even say🤔…Please subscribe to my channel if you would like to see another side to me outside of this blog. In the meantime, as I am yet to write in more detail about some of my video endeavours, if you’re curious you can click here to read about how this blog got its name. My writing style has probably changed a lot since then, but it’s still a cute story~

That’s it for now then. I have quite a bit to do but I wanted to formally write about this video on first on my blog to share with you. Please take a look at #PrayitDoesn’tRain and share the video.

If you have been making YouTube videos whilst keeping it a secret from your blog, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍– From Xinyan.

The Jade King

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Well hello there!

Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with what felt like an unforgiving amount of academic work and a lot of ‘extra-curricular’ projects and ideas I’ve been working on. Did you know, my blog has pretty much always been on my to do list or at the back of my mind since it was created back in sixth form? Learn something new every day~ I have a lot that I want to write about but I can never find the time, or when I do I get suffocated by the thought of having to fit in all my ideas. The exercise of announcing this is an experiment to allow me to write more freely, kind of like how I used to. If you’re new here, my posts often begin with a little self update. In the future I will hopefully tell you more about some of the projects I’ve been working on which will reveal a bit more of who I actually am. But, back to the title, right?

I’m noticing the start of a series here. Some of my previous posts are linked to Huo Da’s novel “The Funeral of a Muslim“, as is this post. “The Jade King” is the title of one of the english published translations of the “The Funeral of a Muslim” which is originally a Chinese text. When I first spoke about this story I mentioned that I was gifted a copy of the Chinese novel and that I wanted to read it for myself. Since then I have tried finding English translations of the novel as well. The original text is quite famous within China, but strangely there have been few English translations. To my knowledge, the novel has been translated in a few foreign languages. I spoke to a writer who was approached and asked to translate the novel into English, and they said that they declined the task as they did not think they were suitable for the workload. Therefore there may be several English translations of the story, but the only physical copy I could acquire is “The Jade King” translated by “Guan Yuehua”.

Terms at the University of Oxford are shorter and more intensive than other Universities which is why I am currently on my Christmas break. It turns out that at the end of the Summer holiday I tried translating an excerpt of the novel into English myself. We will return to that in a few moments. This Michaelmas term (the first of three terms in the Oxford academic calendar) I requested for my college (University College) to order a copy of “The Funeral of a Muslim” translated in English as the only copy I could find within Oxford was unavailable for borrowing. They told me that they found a copy at the China Centre (where my lessons for Chinese Studies take place) library that could be borrowed, and that I should use that copy as the book is quite expensive for them to order -.- Anyway, that’s what I did. My aim is to finally finish a good amount of the novel during this vacation. Whilst 595 pages might seem like an easy read to some, sadly I’ve found it difficult to keep up with books since commencing university.

So now I have the Chinese original text as well as an English translation! The photo I included at the start of this post is a side by side comparison of the covers of both books. The English translation is slightly smaller in length than the Chinese text.

In our final Classical Chinese lesson of term, our teacher conducted a short seminar on translations. We considered how the translation of a text would vary according to its purpose i.e to be used in a dissertation or to be published elsewhere etc. We looked at a line of classical Chinese text that had been translated by several different authors and compared the nuances in their choice of vocabulary when translating the same text.

I brought this up because I recalled that experience the other night when I came across my translation of the first page of Huo Da’s novel. It occurred to me that I could compare this to a published translation as I now have a copy of one, and it would be a useful exercise. I will type out the text from the Chinese novel, as well as from ‘The Jade King’, followed by my own translation so that you may also observe the differences. I will note that my translation is only a rough first draft and therefore may not reflect the same standard you will see from Yuehua. This in itself is an interesting comparison between a student translating for ‘fun’, and a translator producing a piece for publishing.

The following excerpts are taken from the prologue.

1) 月梦:清晨,她走来了。

一辆出租车停在路口,她下了车,略略站了站,环顾着周围。然后,熟悉地穿过大街,小巷,向前走去。她穿着白色的短袖衬衫,白色的西服裙和白色的皮鞋,几乎通体洁白,身材纤秀因而显得颀长,肤色白皙,细腻,橄榄形的脸型,双清澈的眼睛,鼻梁略高而直,未施任何唇膏的淡红的嘴唇紧闭着,颏旁便现出两道细细的,弯弯的,新月形的纹路。微微鬈曲的长发,任其自然地舒服卷在耳后和颈根。耳垂,颈项都没有任何饰物。尽管鬓边的黑发已夹杂着银丝。。。[Original text by Huo Da].

2) Dreaming of the Moon: It was early morning when she came.

Stepping out of a white taxi at an intersection, she stopped a moment to take a look around and then went on down the street and entered a lane, with the familiarity of a long time resident.

Dressed in a pearl-grey suit and a cream-coloured blouse and wearing white wedge-heeled shoes, she appears tall and slim. Her complexion is fair and delicate, her face almond-shaped, her eyes limpid, her nose shapely, her lips, though without makeup, a pale red which, when tightly drawn, produce two fine curving creases at the corners of her mouth; her hair long and slightly wavy, hanging about the ears. No earrings, nor necklace, nor any jewelry. Although her black hair is touched with silver at the temples… [Translation by Guan Yuehua].

3) A Dream of the Moon: She came over early in the morning. A taxi stopped at the intersection, she came out the car, and gently stood, looking around the surroundings. Afterwards she crossed the big street with familiarity, she faced the alley ahead and walked through. She wore a white short sleeve blouse, a white western skirt and white leather shoes, almost all her body was pure white. Her figure was graceful and as a result she seemed tall. Her skin was fair and fine, her face was the shape of a Chinese olive, with a pair of clear eyes, the outline of the bridge of her nose was tall and straight, without using any lipstick her light red lips were tightly closed, the side of her chin revealed two thin and winding new moon shaped wrinkles. Faintly curled hair, naturally curled behind the ear and root of the neck. Her earlobe, and neck both had no jewelry whatsoever. Despite the black hairs on the side of her temples being mixed up with silver hair… [My translation].

This is where I would like to end this post for now, I think it was quite interesting for me to finally be able to compare my translation to one that has been ‘approved’.

If you want to tell a story, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Bubble tea shops – Oxford!

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喂~ As promised, this post will introduce you to shops where you can buy bubble tea! I’ll be talking about things like their location, pros/cons and general 口味/flavor. 本来 I wanted this post to include a review of shops in both London and Oxford (as that’s where I’m living) but I realized it’s going to be quite lengthy. Instead I decided it’s better to separate these posts between the two cities. Today I have begun with boba stores in Oxford since they are less there than in London. I have started each section with the store name in bold and if you press the name you will find a link to its website with precise locations 等等. Lastly, the three stores I am about to introduce you to are not in order of my favourites😋

Formosan| The shop we shall start with is called Formosan and it happens to be the closest to where I was staying in Oxford! Formosan claims to be the ‘first and only tea bar of its kind in the UK’, but what’s so special about it? After talking to one of the workers about this same question he told me that the main USP of the shop is that there are no artificial flavours or colours in the syrups that are used to make their teas, and that there are no chemical additives. Quite a plus since bubble tea can contain a lot of sugar. For this reason the store markets themselves as the shop that sells ‘healthy’ bubble tea, which you can see from the poster outside that leads up into its entrance. I’d like to clear up that whilst Formosan certainly does offer a 比较 healthier alternative to the boba shops I shall go on to mention, its drinks are not ‘healthy’ in itself. Back to the poster at the entrance, the store is located in an…interesting place😅. It’s along the High St (on the left, the same side as Shepherd & Woodward and Natwest) -through an alleyway. If you exit down the opposite side of the alleyway on your way out you may soon find yourself at Christ Church college…but I digress. The location may seem off-putting to some but the shop is usually quite busy, so it’s not bad. The flavours on the menu may seem quite similar to each other but you can sample a few of the main flavours to see what suits your fancy~ If you get a topping in your drink (like tapioca or pudding) the average price is around £4.75, which can be a bit pricey. On the plus side, there is a loyalty card scheme which gets you stamps for the drinks you buy and rewards you with the 10th drink being free 🎉. You can also pay by card (there’s a sign that says it’s a £5 min spend, but it’s not strictly true); and if you go an hour before the store closing (the store currently closes at 8pm) your drink will be half price! 🎉–but you won’t get a stamp on your loyalty card. Other things to add is that there is free wifi, a toilet (discreetly hidden away too) and a very nice ‘tea room’ seating area with a table and floor cushions. And although you cannot mix flavours, there’s another branch in London! My recommendation: GLP with no ice~

Coba| Coba is quite an interesting shop. It’s a decent size store and cutely decorated with green walls, artwork and polaroid pictures hung up and displayed. There are also a couple of tables and small board games set up for people to play with friends as they have their drinks. They have the typical fruit and milk flavours, as well as milkshakes, such as an oreo milkshake you would find in an ice-cream parlour. The interesting thing is that you can not only have toppings such as tapioca in your bubble tea, but also in the milkshake! It’s worth a try, although I think tapioca tastes better in regular boba. As well as drinks, the store offers snacks! I have only tried one of their waffles, but they also offer pot ramen and a few Chinese street food style snacks. Once again for some reason Coba is also located down a sort of alleyway…but not exactly, I’m not really sure what it’s called o.O You can find the store through an opening in Corn Market St on the side opposite the Clarendon Shopping Centre. Look out for it’s own poster outside an archway, and there may even be an employee holding a sign outside. I didn’t seem to go to Coba as often as the other two options out of convenience, but it’s a good option! I like to mix flavours when a store tells me they can do this for me and if you are also like this, Coba can accommodate~ They (like most stores that allow flavour mixing) will tell you if they think the flavour will work well and if it’s a bit strange (like mine usually are) they will warn you. Expect to be met with a bit of confusion at first. They also have a loyalty stamp card scheme with the 10th drink being free🎉. A regular size drink is £3.59 but you can only pay by cash. My recommendation: Lemon fruit tea~

Chatime| Let me begin by telling you that Chattime is located in Glocester Green and has branches across the UK. There are a few tables for you to sit at with your drink, but none of the shops I’ve mentioned thus far are massively big in space. Perhaps it’s the white décor tricking me, but Chatime seems to be the most recognisable establishment for boba out of the three listed options. They offer fruit and milk tea flavours, although it would be nice if they expanded their fruit tea menu. As well as typical bubble tea they offer slushies (mushed ice drinks), which you can have with tapioca or other toppings but I wouldn’t recommend it because the ice causes the tapioca to harden faster (unless you plan to down it); tea lattes, coolers and mousse tea. The mousse tea has a layer of foam on top of the tea and you have to shake the cup to mix it in to the drink…in all honesty its just another milk tea. Also the coolers don’t seem too far from fruit teas with ice😅. But don’t get me wrong, I do like this shop and I went there a lot! Of all the boba stores in Oxford it closes latest at 10pm. They too have a loyalty card stamp scheme, and you guessed it, the 10th drink is 免费 -FREE!🎉I think a drink on average costs £4.20, however like Coba, they only accept cash and nearby cashpoints can be a bit 麻烦to get to. Strictly speaking you cannot mix flavors, however depending on the employee they may just let it pass~ Other exciting things are their promotional events. During Chinese new year they gave out red packets with special coupon prizes inside with every drink! Prizes ranged from free toppings to free drinks! My recommendation: Here, generally a green tea base and possibly extra sugar. Try the apple green tea with no ice (tastes like the green Hubba Bubba bubblegum!)~ They also have a Facebook page.

So those are the three bubble tea shops in Oxford~ There are a few restaurants and the odd ice-cream shop (down Cowley) that serve bubble tea, but I wouldn’t recommend it in comparison to the stores I’ve discussed in this post. I think I should add that this was not at all sponsored…but I wouldn’t mind XD 😛 (and I have a Chinese CV ready to go!~~)☕️

I haven’t been too well lately so I had to delay this post, but I hope you enjoyed it now that it’s come out~ Please 期待 my posts to come and be patient with me 💪🏽.

If you plan to explore some bubble tea shops, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.