Thursday, December 22, 2011

Diary from Chinese youth leaders' camp

Carolyn Ding, student | Thursday, December 22, 2011 8:29

Carolyn Ding is in Year 11, at Saint Kentigerns College. She attended the New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA) first ever Youth Leadership Camp at Camp Adair in December 2011.
Winston Gee

Chinese students earmarked as future leaders have taken part in the first youth leadership camp run by the NZ Chinese Association. One of those chosen Carolyn Ding, is Year 11 at St Kentigerns. She kept a diary of the experience for the Aucklander. The 43 students - aged 14 to 17 - were exploring what it means to be young and Chinese in New Zealand. They were chosen because they have been earmarked as future leaders. Albert King, a personal development coach from Singapore ran the weekend which featured speeches from high-profile Kiwis of Chinese descent including film director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets), Andrew Young (ex-CEO, Starship Foundation) and Meng Foon (Mayor of Gisborne).

The Aucklander asked one of future leaders who took part to keep a diary. Carolyn Ding is in Year 11, at Saint Kentigerns. This is her account.

Today I caught a lift with Jess, meeting Maisy and Alice, and drove an hour to Hunua's Camp Adair. The only other camps I have attended were in primary school and last year's choir camp.

We were allocated our cabins and I soon realised others were in the same position as me - quite nervous about meeting others. The committee, including Richard Leung and David Wong, met us an introduced us to our new coach and mentor, Albert King, who had flown in from Singapore!

I was nervous this morning knowing that I would be surrounded by a new environment, strangers and tasks that may be mentally and physically challenging.

We played a few'meet and greet' activities and acknowledged what we wanted to get out of the camp. I really like the way Albert explained that the more we put into it, the more we'd get out of it. I know I've heard that so many times but just the way he challenged us, really made me think and want to give it a go. I hope I can give 110 per cent.

He also explained our comfort zone and how we have a stretch zone and also a danger zone, the stretch zone being the extension and putting ourselves to the test and the danger zone being stretching ourselves way too far and endangering ourselves such as a panic attack etc. (I don't think that'll be too likely though).

I haven't thought about this before. I hope I can actually gain a better idea of who I am by the end of the camp.

We did activities aimed at getting to know each other. There are a couple of St Kentigern College students (Meghan Koh and Nick King) who I have seen around school but haven't had the chance to talk to before. There are also a number of Diocesan girls, some from Wellington, Levin and one all the way from Queensland!

Later, we were fortunate enough to hear from the the director of My Wedding and Other Secrets, Roseanne Liang! I love that movie and have watched it so many times, so I feel as if I kind of already know her. It was an excellent talk in which she spoke about her films, endeavours and hard work getting there. It was very inspiring the way she spoke from the heart about finding herself and her Chinese identity. It's also really interesting that her Chinese ancestry has actually helped her in her success, and she knows who she is despite the confusion of her mixed culture. I wish I could be that decisive. She also shared her childhood and her parents' Chinese influence. It's funny how so much has changed and where most of us accept ourselves as Chinese New Zealanders and may not even know our Chinese roots or the language. Are we still Chinese if we can't speak the language, don't share the culture, but simply look the part?

I guess I see myself as a New Zealander even though I am Chinese. I now feel as if my culture of Chinese enhances the New Zealand. I do know how to speak a bit of Cantonese and yes, I do know the Chinese culture to a point, but my roots and ancestry are still a bit hazy. Something to research.

Roseanne accepts that life is full of learning curves and we should put in the hard yards to strive to'not be a bad person' but instead a good, moral person. When put like that, I see life in a different perspective. I just wish we could sometimes take a simpler route to our ideal image instead of going through the hard yards.

Afterwards, we watched the lion dance performed by kids aged 4-19. I've seen this previously so it was no biggie for me. We were also given the chance to give it a go.

Chill time. At dinner, I sat with some Diocesan girls. Had some classic Chinese noodles (stirfry and chicken). Yum.

Group activities were next. Got into our groups - Davina, Sian, Cammy, Wei Luok, Nick, Braden, Nathan and I. Our facilitators were Alice Chan and Winson Fong.

Made a name: Panda Power! Made a logo. Made a chant.

'We are black, we are white, we are mighty dynamite!

Was really fun working in the group, Sian is the leader of our group and Davina is the messenger.

Burma trail
It was alright, not too adrenaline rushing as we could see in the dark and everyone was talking but it was fun spending time with the group anyway whether we could see them or not.

Supper, then played cards, tin the other dorm. Also played a few truth and dares.

It's now midnight and everyone is asleep except me. I am so tired and still have to wake up at 7.30am tomorrow. Not looking forward to that part.

Woke up to my friend, Jess, tapping me on the shoulder for a 6.30am wake up call. No not 7.30am. It's a Saturday and usually I'm used to waking up around 10.30am.

Today: It was the outdoor high ropes designed to push us to our limits or'stretch zone'. I am not so keen on heights. Once at the top of each course, about 10m from the ground, and faced with the task of leaping into mid air, I was far from my comfort zone.

The sight of even Winson jumping scared me. He jumped and spread out his arms and legs out like a starfish. Each bump and swing of the rope made him jerk from side to side like a rag doll. I'm pretty sure I would never do that in a million years. How on earth does anyone do that?

It was the first obstacle and I'd have to say the scariest although many others said they had loved it.

The second obstacle was fine. It was the Cargo Net where you simply had to climb up a 10m cargo net which wasn't attached to the ground. It was much, much easier for me as I'd much rather endure a small workout than facing heights!

This was also great for the team bonding because we had to work together to guide a blindfolded member of our group over the course. Also we were forced to bond by guiding the ropes attached to the climber through a mechanism, ensuring their safety. It was great fun.

The final obstacle was the Multi Vine in which we had to climb up the tree and scuttle across a tightrope wire, holding on to suspended vertical ropes every 2m. This really tested our balance, trust in ourselves as well as the trust we had in our team mates. I found this activity challenging as the further I travelled, the more it shook according to my nerves, and the more it shook, the more nervous I became. Let's just say it was very shaky up there. I was insanely scared.

As we had restricted time, we were only able to complete 3 out of the 5 courses. To be honest, I was very relieved - the next one involved heights.

Taichi was next, all about finding your inner chi and balance to your life: ying and yang. Once explained I could understand the fascination of it, although it isn't my cup of tea. Gold medallist and two time silver medallist David Wong taught us! His control and balance was amazing. When I tried it, it was surprisingly quite relaxing.

Guest speaker two: Andrew Young, Past CEO of Starship Foundation and present Global Marketing Director of Les Mills.

Andrew was also very inspiring to me, hearing about his difficulties and challenges growing up in the Chinese culture and having to work in his parents' fruit shop as a teenager instead of being able to hang out with his mates. He really rebelled against his parents. I couldn't really believe it that someone like him, now so successful, could've had so much difficulty as a teenager. He really spoke from the heart and it was an amazing talk.

We then moved on to a Chinese dance. A lot of people were put out of their immediate comfort zone but once we got going, we were fine. We have to wear cultural costumes tomorrow at the performance for the parents. Bright pink with a mandarin collar and the works. Great. I am also not a great dancer.

Then we went to calligraphy. It was surprisingly hard to write nicely. I didn't expect that. It was handy that I had attended Chinese school previously when I was young so I was familiar with most words. The calligraphy Chinese teacher was so funny!

Dinner then another speaker.

Meng Foon spoke to us. It had been a very long, full on day so we were already very tired. He spoke about his experiences working within a political setting and how if we should always use our full potential in everything we do so that we don't live with regrets. I really respect his skills and being fluent in Maori. He also sung us a Maori song. He is actually a good singer!

After supper was our group presentations answering our given question. Ours was'If you were a super hero, what super ability would you pick to have'. We chose shape shifting which ties in with our'panda' group name and created a short story based on how communication is key. Being able to shape shift into different animals and characters, we would also be able communicate with different life forms and see situations from their perspectives.

Then we sat in our groups in a dark setting to hear classical music, sharing our thoughts. It was great to see how we'd all grown a bit, and we all felt a bit wiser after only a day and a half of camp. That was one of my favourite parts of camp. Sitting around in groups by candlelight, having a deep and meaningful conversation.

It's now 2.30am and I am exhausted after chatting etc.

Team building activities, everyone grouping in a circle. All I could think about the whole time while we were interacting with one another was how we were strangers only two days ago and now, we were familiar and had built strong relationships in such a short time frame. It is like Albert said,'we are all connected now'.

We went to the hall that and listened to NZCA National President, Virginia Chong, speak. She spoke about our futures and what lies ahead of us within the NZCA community. I think it was a good conclusion, focusing on the future opportunities.

Following other presentations, we had a discussion about whether we see ourselves as New Zealand Chinese or Chinese New Zealand and whether there is a difference between the two or not. It really triggered my own thoughts.

We had a small ceremony presenting envelopes from our facilitators (Alice and Winson) in which comments from our camp members had been written. I loved the atmosphere, everyone was silent and music was put on. Not one word was said yet the message was still conveyed.

We were then able to hug and whisper our acknowledgements, ending with everyone in a circle, swaying from side to the'Vitamin C Friends Forever Graduation Song'. Although it was a bit cheesy, I think it touched each one of us.

The very last thing on the agenda was the parent concert in which we had to perform our Chinese dance we had learnt in an hour yesterday. I was anxious about performing in front of the parents and especially the Chinese dance routine as it was something I had never tried before. I don't think anyone of us were too pleased about our costumes, yet alone the dance, but it was the last challenge and we all did our best.

Certificates were handed out and a slide show played showed us how much we had done in such a small space of time. Then it was an afternoon tea with all our leftover treats and Chinese dumplings.

I now have a new set of friends, a support group and many new thoughts. Despite all the nerves, fears and early wakeups, it was a great experience, and I have a lot to take away from it.

- Carolyn Ding, year 11 in 2011, Saint Kentigern College

No comments: