Asheville Middle School 7th graders say Gung Hay Fat Choy!

“Xie xie,” said Asheville Middle School seventh grade teacher Rebecca Cobbledick as students brought their computers up to her one by one. “It is important to know at least and hello and thank you in lots of languages,” she said. At the end of the second hour of a special day of instruction on a variety of Asian customs surrounding the Lunar New Year, students were starting to get an awareness of a culture very different than their own.

Over 200 seventh grade students rotated through a variety of Lunar New Year stations, from ancient customs and traditions, origami, tai chi, culture, and a web-based hunt for understanding of one of the world’s oldest traditions. Oh yeah, and they went to Asiana for lunch too.

Learning how to use chopsticks and the differences between South Asia and North Asia was an eye opener for some students. Others listened with rapt attention at the explanation of Yin and Yang, and the theories of the ancients. Of course, origami was a favorite of many of the students, as they learned why cranes and dragons are revered creatures in many Asian cultures. Still others were amazed at the diversity of language and ethnicity in China. With over 200 local dialects of the 10-or-so main languages — most only separated by the tone of the words — understanding Chinese can be difficult for western ears. The best example may be how European languages changed from Latin into a variety of tongues from Spain to Norway, and how sometimes if you speak one, you can understand some of the other.

The physical was not ignored, as students got a short introduction to tai chi. An explanation of the traditional hand-over-fist salute and how it relates to the yin and yang and the observance of the natural world led into a discussion about joints and movement and then to actual movements. Students squealed with delight as they felt their bodies do what the teacher had described, and even several students of various martial arts came away with a different perspective on this ‘slow movement’ form.

At Asiana, where students were encouraged to find traditional Lunar New Year foods, the students discussed if Chinese people ate food like that. One of the waiters, Min Zhaou told students who asked, “No, only very rich people, and on special days or holidays.”

After filling out note sheets about the day’s events, students returned to their lives, with maybe a little understanding of what life is like 10,000 miles away.

Students learn basics of Tai Chi.

Students show off their origami creations.

Showing the Yin and Yang proper respect.

Photos by Bill Rhodes


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.