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Chinese Bridge 2004
2005-3-29 10:04:46
The Chinese Bridge is a Chinese proficiency competition for foreign college students: It is also an unforgettable week of friendships and enlightenment. It might look like a beauty contest from the outside, but the emotion involved is 100% real.

The Chinese Bridge is known in mandarin as ¡°Hanyuqiao¡±, and that's how must of the contestants refer to it. It started in 2002, with only about 40 students taking part: I was one, representing the UK as that¡¯s where I was in university. The competition format has been revised and polished, as has the number of countries represented. This means more people have the chance to take part, with 75 competitors this year.


The main protagonists of this edition of Voices From Other Lands are Callisto Searle from the UK, Dmitry Pishchacnikov from Russia, Belhadj Imen from Tunisia, Obame Eyeng Romuald from Cameroon, Eqbal Hassan Syed from India, Patrick Mcaloon from the USA, and Tran Quang Duc from Vietnam.

For our web feature this time out though, we¡¯re using one of the interviews that didn¡¯t make it onto the air.

It¡¯s with one of the two Argentine representatives, Mr. Ruben Coirini, a 34 year old accountant with ANSES, the National Administration of Social Security in Argentina.


Ruben says told us his wife and sister-in-law are both here in China supporting him at the contest. When he delivered his speech, on Tuesday afternoon, at the end, he stopped to add a few words, in Chinese of course: ¡°My wife is here in the audience¡± and the crowd said ¡°awwww!¡± She doesn¡¯t understand Chinese¡± Ruben continued ¡°but I want to tell her, ¡®I love you¡¯¡±. And the crowed erupted! It was a very romantic moment, and I spoke to Ruben about it the next day in the theatre.


¡°For me it¡¯s very important that she¡¯s here, she¡¯s staying in another hotel and she is moving well in China alone, and without knowing Chinese it¡¯s not so easy and she came here with me just to be with me, so I told her what I felt, in Chinese.¡±


Ruben¡¯s performance was a martial arts display ¨C he comes across as an exceptionally amiable person, but the Kung-fu looks scary enough I can tell you! He says he has been practising for ten years --- having started when he was not young, he says ¡° I cannot be a great martial artist, but I enjoy it very much and I think that was my better point, my audition; my Chinese, is¡­ I am still learning, I have to work hard¡± 


What does he think of the competition?

¡°We don¡¯t know this kind of competition in our country. This is so big, so important, with so much money, I think this is an investment for Chinese people. I think they want to be some part of the occident. They do what they need to do, I think! It¡¯s very important for them, and for us too, because last month my President was here and was signing accords, with the Chinese government, tourism, industries, international trade and this is very important for my country too.¡±


The name of the competition is the Chinese Bridge, do you think in some way you are a bit of a bridge?

¡°This bridge must be very long because I have to travel almost 2 days to come here. It¡¯s very long!¡±


Argentina recently has had some economic difficulties, and China is a developing country, what¡¯s it like coming to see this from your point of view?


¡°We see so many contrasts, here in China too, tech highly developed, but also poor people, magnificient buildings, but we can see people cycling ¨C cycling is a custom here¡ªbut you can see very old bicycles with people carrying a lot of weight. For me the differences are great. For my country, I don¡¯t see a light for my country for a few years. We have so many goods, but we don¡¯t have industry, so we can't trade with other developed countries. We spent a lot of money in the last years and we don¡¯t know where is the money?¡±


So what about the competition?


¡°It was very competitive, a very high level, among the oriental guys [some] speak Chinese like a mother-language, and a few guys from Australia and America have a very good level, and in the audition / dramatisation they were very good, there was a very good singer from Ukraine, on the first day there was a Japanese girl who played the traditional instrument, [the Guzheng], they were very well prepared¡±


¡°Are you a bit disappointed?¡± I ask.


¡°No, no not at all, for me, I won when I came here, that¡¯s my prize, the other was secondary. As I said in Chinese, I¡¯ve been dreaming of being in China for several years.¡±


The amount I could learn about the competitors in a few hours was limited, but the contestants all learned a lot about each other over their week in China. It is a very intense few days, but the not intensely competitive. To make a generalisation, there is an east-west divide between competitors¡¯ attitudes: The western students are here to enjoy the experience, while the Easterners are here to enjoy the experience, and bring home some glory for their country or school. If you are a former contestant and think otherwise, let me know! You can start a thread on our new forums if you like, just follow the Forums link at the top of the page!

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