Wed, 21 Oct 2020

Veronika Steyn (Front), Founder and Director of Gingko Education, introduces Chinese wine to her colleagues in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, Sept. 26, 2020. (Xinhua/Tafara Mugwara)

Zimbabweans enjoy the bits of Chinese culture by making dumplings and drinking Chinese wine and tea at Gingko Education, a language and culture institute based in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital city.

by Tafara Mugwara

HARARE, Sept. 30 (Xinhua ) -- While the pandemic might have seen global travel grinding to a halt, Veronika Steyn still found a way to offer her colleagues in Zimbabwe an opportunity to get a glimpse of China without ever exiting the country's borders.

All of that is done through cultural gatherings where people get exposure to Chinese cultural practices such as making dumplings and drinking Chinese wine and tea.

The first of such social events was held on Saturday in a northern Harare suburb, and more than 20 people were in attendance.

Steyn, who is originally from Ukraine, is the Founder and Director of Gingko Education, a language and culture institute that aims to celebrate and promote diversity through language and culture.

The name of the institute was inspired by Gingko Biloba, an ancient tree native to China that has been grown for thousands of years for a variety of uses including in Chinese Traditional Medicine.

Steyn said her aim of starting the cultural gatherings is to "start a conversation between people."

She moved to Zimbabwe three years ago after living in China for seven years. As a polyglot who is fluent in Ukrainian, Chinese, Russian, and English, Steyn has always been intrigued by different languages and cultures.

"We are actually all very much the same," she told Xinhua. "Culture is just another way how we can say that we are different from each other, but if we really look deeper, we aren't."

"We all want the same things from life, and I just want people to come together and talk to each other and see that we are all the same and, I think the world would care for a little bit of unity as opposed to difference," she said.

People make Chinese dumplings at a cultural gathering in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, Sept. 26, 2020. (Xinhua/Tafara Mugwara)

Steyn expressed her love with Chinese cuisine and the health benefits associated with it.

She said Chinese cuisine is more than just a delicacy, but it also contains therapeutic properties that can boost a person's physical and physiological wellbeing.

"If I have a headache, I am a Westerner, I take a painkiller, to just treat the pain, but if I am a Chinese woman and I have a headache I am gonna go and see a Chinese doctor and the doctor is gonna prescribe me ten different herbs, set of acupuncture to boost the energy of my body to balance me in a way that my body can find the way to heal my headache," she said.

One of the attendees of the cultural gathering, Paul Walsted, said he finds Chinese food extremely healthy, adding that he always buys Chinese food in local supermarkets.

"There are a few Chinese supermarkets in Harare, and I always support them by buying Chinese food, but the only problem is I don't speak Chinese and all the labels are written in Chinese so I don't really know what I am buying and I just experiment with it and I find it delicious," he said.

Another attendee, Elena Slyona Meda said she uses such cultural gatherings to expose herself to as many cultures as possible.

Meda said she has always been fascinated by the Chinese language and culture, and she hopes that one day she will be able to speak with Chinese customers who frequent her workplace.

Meda is not alone. Chinese has become one of the most sought-after foreign languages in Zimbabwe.

The influx of Chinese investments in the country over the past decade has seen more people seeking to learn the language.

Thousands of Zimbabweans have enrolled for Chinese language lessons at the Confucius Institute at the University of Zimbabwe since its inception in 2006. ■

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