Maria Holland

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Thanksgiving – In the States!

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm

It’s been a while since I celebrated Thanksgiving in the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving.  I was in China last year studying and the year before that visiting, so it had been three years since I had spent the day with my family.

Those two years of unconventional Thanksgivings actually gave me a much deeper appreciation for the holiday.  The first year, with its meal of turkey curry and our night out at the Mongolian sticks restaurant with s’mores for dessert, brought my attention to Thanksgiving as a sharing of cultures through food. 

Last year, I was celebrating in my new home with people I had known for less than three months.  That NQR dinner (on the roof of a Tex-Mex restaurant on the beach) made me appreciate how, even in these circumstances so far from home, I was surrounded by people I loved.


This year, I spent the majority of my Thanksgiving break (9 consecutive days – glorious!!) in Tulsa.  On Tuesday, I drove down to Dallas to spend the holidays with family; not family as in “the four of us”, but family as in “the forty-three of us”.  My parents and brother stayed up in the snowy north but I opted for Texas due to proximity, number, and – let’s face it – weather.

It was a good holiday, just as Thanksgiving should be, with food and family.

I brought my own contributions for the feast – two six-packs of Tsingtao Beer and a bag of 汤圆.  I should confess, I suppose, that there was another reason I chose Dallas: Asian markets!  I stopped by one on the way to my aunt’s house and it was almost like walking back into the supermarket at West Gate.  I wandered the aisles, noting the varieties of tofu available, until I found the frozen food aisle and its pot of gold.  That’s right, 汤圆

If you remember, tang yuan are one of my favorite Chinese foods.  The English name is generally translated as Glutinous Rice Balls, which I’ll admit doesn’t sound appealing, but they are so good.  They’re sticky balls of rice dough filled with sweetened sesame paste.  And they’re also delicious. 

So, I boiled a pot of water and dumped a whole bag of small tang yuan into it.  Then, excited to share a personal favorite with my family, I invited everyone to try them.

Oh, how I wish I’d had a video camera.  One by one, everyone grabbed one tang yuan on a fork and ate it.  The facial expressions were ridiculous!  You would have thought they were eating fish eyes or peas – both disgusting foods I have ingested! 

Some people are just not open to new foods apparently.  Really puts the damper on that “cultural sharing through food” thing.  It also left me with several dozen tang yuan to eat by myself – when a normal serving of tang yuan is about 8.  Turns out they’re a pretty heavy dessert . . . .

I’ll just think of it as stretching my stomach for Thanksgiving dinner!

Ten Steps Forward, One Giant Leap Back

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I’ve been following the news out of China about the Catholic Church, and most of it this past year has been encouraging.  Recently, the 10th bishop was ordained with papal and government approval.  After years of no ordinations, this seemed like a really positive step in church-government relations

Then I suppose that the most recent ordination can’t be viewed as anything but a giant leap backwards. 

Last weekend, Father Guo JinCai was ordained as the bishop of Chengde, Hebei – illicitly, without papal approval.  This was the first illicit ordination in four years, and the first since Pope Benedict’s letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007. 

So much about this news disturbs me.  From the sound of it, it bears no resemblance to any church service I’ve ever attended, in China or elsewhere.  The ceremony was reportedly attended by “more than 100 faithful” – and, because this warrants mention, “about 100 uniformed and plainclothes police”. Security seemed to be an issue, as “cameras were banned in the church and mobile phone signals blocked in the area.”

Most disturbing was the pressure applied to legitimate bishops to participate in the ordination.  The ordination was performed by eight open bishops, who were coerced through house arrest and even taken away by government officials. 


Cardinal Zen, advocate of religious freedom in China, wrote on that topic after the news of the ordination. 

I think it is my duty, given this special opportunity to inform my eminent brothers, that there is still no religious freedom in China. There is too much optimism around something that does not correspond to reality. Some have no way of knowing the reality, others close their eyes to reality, others still see religious freedom in a very simplistic way.

If you were to visit China (which I do not recommend, because your visits will be manipulated and exploited for propaganda purposes), you would see beautiful churches full of people who pray and sing, as in any other city in the Christian world. But religious freedom cannot just be reduced to freedom of worship. It is much more.

An anonymous priest from a diocese of one of the coerced bishops also wrote on “What It Means To Force A Bishop’s Hand”:

Police sealed off the cathedral of Cangzhou (Xianxian) diocese to prevent priests going to save their bishop, who has been taken away to attend the Chengde illicit ordination.  Bishops of Cangzhou (Xianxian), Hengshui (Jingxian) and Baoding have been put under house arrest and pressured to attend Father Joseph Guo Jincai’s ordination since Nov. 11. broke the news on Nov. 17 and since then, almost all media outside mainland China have fixed their focus on the bishops being forced to attend the illicit ordination.

Undeniably they were. But what is implied by the phrase “being forced?”

First, the expression shows sympathy towards the bishops. Second, it suggests they were innocent.

. . . During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), was there anyone who gave up his or her religious belief not because of being forced? How many people were persecuted, with some even sacrificing their precious lives, because they opposed the establishment of an independent Church? The “self-election and self-ordination” of bishops is a principle of the independent Church.

And now it seems that there is no responsibility when one is “being forced.”  . . . If the bishops can do that, then the laypeople can also easily give up their faith when being forced.

After all, we should reflect on which direction the faithful would be guided when media reports emphasize only the pressure brought to bear on them.

I Think This Is the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship . . .

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Random guy (30-year-old male, if his profile is to be believed) friends me on QQ and starts talking to me (translated from Chinese):

Andy: Good morning, Miss

Me: Who are you?

Andy: My name is Andy.  Are you busy?

Me: I’m really busy this week.  Also, I don’t know you.

Andy: Can we get to know each other now?  What’s your last name?  Mine is Zou. 

[a few minutes pass]

Andy: Why aren’t you talking?

Me: Why do you want to get to know me?

Andy: Because I want to be your friend.

Me: Why?

Andy: Because I think your name sounds cool.  Where are you from?

[a few minutes pass]

Andy: Why aren’t you talking?

This is super typical of the average QQ conversation with a stranger; actually many of them are much more creepy.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there are creepers everywhere.

*Note: I suppose I should allow for the possibility that he’s just really lonely, but either way it’s pretty sad. 

Slattery Bishop

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Bishop Cai and I were, as far as bishops and parishioners go, pretty tight.  He bought me a Christmas present and threw a farewell luncheon for me; I texted him while I was in China and have emailed him since I left. 

So why was I so nervous to meet with my American bishop today?  I don’t know, but I was.

I’ve been working on a letter to Bishop Cai for over a month now, and got the idea that it would be cool to include a picture of me with my bishop here.  So on a whim, I emailed the Diocese of Tulsa Chancery explaining my story in brief and asking if I could meet with Bishop Slattery.

And we made an appointment for this morning at 10.

I didn’t really know what to expect.  As most of my experience with bishops had been in Chinese (and in China), I wasn’t 100% sure how to address a bishop or how to greet him.  Turns out, a simple handshake will suffice, and he didn’t seem offended that I didn’t address him as Your Excellency.

I was actually greeted first by a reporter and photographer, who sat in on my chat with the bishop.  Look for me in the Jan/Feb issue of Eastern Oklahoma Catholic!  I didn’t know they were going to be there, but it did mean that I got a nice picture of me and Bishop Slattery:

China Student 1

We chatted for about a half hour, talking about my experiences in China and his (he had been to Hong Kong and possibly Shenzhen 30 years ago), and discussing the state of the Church over there.  It was definitely nothing to worry about; hindsight usually reveals that, doesn’t it?

Just before I left, I gave him the watch that Bishop Cai had given me on my last day.  It’s a huge, beautiful, self-winding example of engineering at its finest, engraved with 厦门教区 蔡炳瑞晋牧纪念 2010.05.08 (Xiamen Diocese, Ordination of Cai BingRui, May 8, 2010) on the back. 


It was intended as a present for my father but he doesn’t wear watches.  I wanted to give it to someone who would appreciate it but couldn’t think of anyone until the obvious answer leapt out at me a few days ago. 

Bishop Slattery seemed very pleased at the gift.  In return, he gave me a handwritten letter for Bishop Cai.  I am going to translate it as best I can and then send off a small package to Xiamen in the next few days!

I Officially Don’t Exist

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 12:14 am

I never wanted to be one of those bloggers that just posts links to other articles, but there’s just always interesting news coming out of China! 

First, an article about a recent interview with the Premier (Wen JiaBao), in which he talked about political reform, democracy, and freedom of speech.  Of course, this part of the speech was censored in the mainland, because they don’t have any of those three things. 

The irony of Wen’s statements on freedom and censorship being censored in official media was not lost on Chinese observers.

“A lot of Chinese people don’t know their premier has been harmonized,” prominent Beijing University Internet researcher Hu Yong wrote on Twitter, using the Chinese euphemism for censorship. “Wen Jiabao’s comments about political reform being censored at least tells us one thing: In front of the big wall, everyone is equal.”

Also, here’s an article on the census that is underway in China.  I feel like I definitely fell through a gap somewhere.  I was not counted in the US census in April 2010 due to my residence in China, and now that I’m back in the States, they’re counting foreigners for the first time.  I basically don’t exist for the next decade, and I feel a little bit weird about that.

But I should have a more real update later this week, and maybe I’ll start posting my Chinese recipes as I perfect them.  (I get my recipes from the internet in Chinese, so they’re legit.  They have MSG listed as an ingredient, so you know they’re good.)