Chinese culture class, with a side of noodles
by joey |
On a recent weekend, more than 20 people crowded into neat rows in a Rasmuson Hall classroom. What would provoke so many folks to sacrifice a sunny Saturday for an afternoon in front of the whiteboards? The answer, of course, is noodles.
On Oct. 15, the Confucius Institute at UAA held another cooking class for the Anchorage community, part of a semester-long program of free Chinese cultural events. Since the Confucius Institute opened at UAA in 2009, public cultural programs have been a keystone of the organization.
The lineup of public workshops at UAA's Confucius Institute changes each year based on the interests and expertise of visiting Chinese graduate students. On deck this semester, Anchorage residents can try their hand at calligraphy, scenery painting and even a bit of dumpling plumping.
"We provide a lot of opportunities for our students, faculty and local people to get to know the Chinese culture," explained Annie Ping Zeng, an associate professor in the Department of Languages and director of UAA's Confucius Institute. UAA's Institute is one of hundreds of similar organizations housed on college campuses across the country. Each participating American university is paired with a Chinese counterpart (UAA's partner is Northeast Normal University, in the northern Chinese city of Changchun). Every year, a few Chinese graduate students head to Anchorage to staff UAA's Confucius Institute. In return, several students have traveled to China on cultural programs independent of UAA.
Hanban, a Chinese council on language education, funds Confucius Institutes around the world. Alaska's only Institute, though, is headquartered in Rasmuson Hall.
"UAA provides the office, Hanban provides the funds, Northeastern Normal University provides the qualified teachers," Annie said of the partnership.
UAA's organization has a three-fold mission, primarily focused on Chinese language education. For one, UAA's Confucius Institute supports Chinese education across campus and throughout Alaska. The staff has given lecturers in several UAA departments, adding a Chinese perspective to classroom conversations in history, philosophy and health sciences. Likewise, UAA's Chinese program has provided support for language education at UAF. Additionally, the Institute supports Confucius Classrooms (smaller language centers) at Bartlett High School and Mt. Edgecumbe High School, and will fund a third at Scenic Park Elementary School, already home to a Chinese language immersion program in Anchorage.
Confucius Institute also encourages American students to study in China. Interested Alaskans can take China's national language test, known as the HSK, at the Confucius Institute to earn acceptance to Chinese universities. Kailey Ibsen, a 2011 anthropology graduate, even received a full scholarship to study at Northeastern Normal University for a year after graduating (read her story here).
Lastly, CI aims to provide cultural opportunities for the community. That's where this noodle-making adventure comes in.
This semester's cultural program kicked off Oct. 1 with a full day of classes on calligraphy, painting and cooking. Programs in each of these areas have continued on Saturdays throughout the semester.
The most recent event-focused on noodle-making-was helmed by CI's Chinese language instructor and cultural program coordinator, Na "Ruby" Qiano. Nearly two dozen people, ranging from residence hall students to retired professors to non-traditional students and their children, showed up for the event.
Ruby started the class by presenting the history and importance of noodles in Chinese cuisine. The dish is associated with northern China, where the drier climate provides a better environment for growing wheat flour needed for noodle dough (the rainier south is prime rice paddy region, though both rice and noodles are common throughout the country). Each region of China has their own take on the classic noodle dish, with varying degrees of sweet, sour and spice.
Ruby and her assistants provided small amounts of dough for cooking class guests so everyone could try their hand at rolling and slicing. After pounding and spreading the dough into a super-flat pancake shape, culinary novices rolled the dough into a tight roll and sliced the edges off in thin strips. Voila! Noodles!
Before the students got to chopping, Ruby shared her own personal memories of her father spreading out noodle dough across an entire table to prepare for a big family dinner. She also mentioned that, in today's China, there are even blinking armies of functional noodlebots (check it out on YouTube) that are built solely to shave off shredded noodles and flash their impersonal eye-lights. Noodles, it turns out, represent a rich history as well as an innovative future in China.
If you missed the recent down low on lo mein, fear not. There are plenty of upcoming courses this semester. Drop-ins are absolutely welcome, but guests are encouraged to register ahead of time by contacting the Confucius Institute at 907-786-1760 or email@example.com. Order up!
All workshops are in Rasmuson Hall. Check the Confucius Institute bulletin board in the main lobby for specific rooms and locations.
Calligraphy courses: Saturdays through Nov. 12, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Painting courses: Saturdays through Dec. 3, 2-3 p.m.
Cooking course: Check the bulletin board in Rasmuson Hall for upcoming information
Movie night: Song of the Phoenix on Saturday, Nov. 5, 3:30-6 p.m. in RH 110.
Like what you see? Students interested in studying abroad in China can contact Leslie Tuovinen, education abroad coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to hear about UAA's other opportunities for study in China.
Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement