A Queen of Five Hundred Kings

Nowhere on this very planet or in this universe could one expect to find a cohort of five hundred kings. Otherwise, there would have already been a star war.

But the XXX High School is an exception. Once a year, such an impossible spectacle does occur. All people at the XXX High School, not only students from 27 countries but also the faculty and staff, have the chance to be kings, not at war, but at a grand dinner party. On this occasion, they eat like kings!

This is all because of the Chinese Lunar New Year—the Spring Festival. Since its inception three years ago, the event has been international and it has become the greatest school heritage everyone looks forward to all year round—no one can resist the temptation to be a king, especially when the event is launched by a devoted Chinese Festival Queen.

The second year at the XXX High School, I was head of International Student Organization and head of Chinese Culture Club. To alleviate homesickness, some of my Chinese fellow students suggested having a dinner party on the eve of Spring Festival. It dawned on me that students from other Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, and Singapore which share the same festival tradition) might also suffer from homesickness and it would be selfish to exclude them. It further dawned on me that everybody at school is homesick in one way or another. The best way to rid homesickness is to be together with family members. Then, aren’t all the students who live and study together on campus our brothers and sisters, and the teachers and staff who instruct and take care of us our parents?

Suddenly but irresistibly, the idea of an all-campus Spring Festival Dinner Party came into my mind. The craziness of the idea frightened me at first, but when I shared it with Asian students, they all considered it great. What’s more, the school authorities liked the idea too.

The day the plan was settled, Asian students preoccupied themselves with searching for recipes, on the Internet, at the library, in bookstores, or simply calling their moms for the secrets of their best-loved foods. Preparations were well under way before Christmas and, used to be served, they practiced hard to be serving. I returned to China expressly to prepare for the grand event, and came back to XXX with several large bags of special ingredients, spices, decorative objects. As the Festival approached, students from each country formed national teams and competed fiercely to win national pride. The result of the three-day competitions was a whole dinning hall replete with Asian foods of all forms, colors, smells, and tastes—Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese fried spring rolls, Korean rice cakes, Singaporean Bakkut Teh and pad Thai noodles ……

On the evening of the “royal banquet”, the dinning hall was turned into a royal palace. In place of lavish chandeliers, there were red lanterns, exquisite paper cuttings, and greetings hand-written in calligraphy. Most students came dressed in the best of their national costumes that made the occasion a multinational fashion show. Everyone helped himself or herself to more than 100 exotic dishes—the richest food collection they had ever seen in their life. Our schoolmaster commented that even real kings wouldn’t be able to eat like kings as we did and he complained about his “gluttonous stomach”. On the over-sized New Year greeting card, we received hundreds of sweet messages; a freshman girl thanked us for making her “part of the Asian culture” and “part of the international family”.

In the wake of the event, I earned the name “Festival Queen”. Every year, students who graduate reluctantly resign their kingship whereas freshmen are stunned by the incredible honor of being kings. The tradition will be carried on, and the XXX High School will keep producing kings who, having experienced that cathartic spirit of an international family, will reign in their respective “kingdoms” with that same spirit of internationality, replacing hatred and misunderstandings with universal hospitality, goodwill and friendship.





        初到XXX中学的那一年,我担任了“国际学生社团”和“中国文化社团”的主席。为了舒缓思乡之苦,我的几个中国同学提议在除夕之夜举办聚餐晚会。我意识到,来自其它亚洲国家(那些与中国共同拥有庆祝春节传统的国家,如泰国、越南、马来西亚、韩国、新加坡等)的学生,也会遭受乡愁的折磨, 将他们排除在外,无疑是很自私的。我进一步意识到,校园上的每一个人都会因这样那样的原因思念家乡。消除乡愁的最佳方法,就是与家人在一起。那么,每天在校园里一起学习、生活的学生,不就是我们的兄弟姐妹吗?那些给我们上课和照料我们的教职员工,不就是我们的父母吗?

        那么突然地,又是那么无可阻挡地,一个全校春节晚宴的念头在我头脑中成形。这个念头如此疯狂, 起初我自己也被吓了一跳。但当我将此想法与全体亚洲学生分享时,他们都认为这主意妙不可言。更重要的是,校方对此也大加赞赏。

        自从该计划确定下来的那天起,亚洲学生们便一天到晚忙着找食谱,或通过Internet, 或在图书馆,或在书店,或直接打越洋电话给他们的妈妈,讨教他们最爱吃的食物的秘方。圣诞节之前,各项准备工作就一一展开。所有那些以前在家里被侍候惯了的学生,勤学苦练,以便届时能把客人们给侍候得美滋滋的。我专门回了一趟中国,为这次盛大的活动作准备,回XXX中学时,背回了大包小包的中国食材、调料和饰品。随着春节日趋临近,亚洲学生以国家为单位组建了国家队,彼此激烈竞争,以赢得国家声誉。三天下来,你追我赶的结果是,学校的餐厅里摆满了色、香、味、形各异的佳肴,有中国饺子,越南炸春卷,南韩米饼,新加坡肉骨茶,泰国炒面……

        “皇家晚宴”举办的当晚,学校的餐厅变成了皇宫。尽管没有奢华的水晶大吊灯,但我们有大红灯笼、精致的剪纸、用书法手写而成的节日祝福。大多数学生以民族盛装出席晚宴,现场随即成为一场盛大的国际时装秀。面对着上百道充满着异国情调的菜肴,每个人狼吞虎咽——那是他们一辈子前所未见的最丰盛的美食汇!我们的校长感慨道,即使是真正的国王,也无法奢望能像我们那样吃得开心;他还怪自己的胃那晚为何如此“贪吃”!在一张超大的新年贺卡上,我们收到了数百条情真意切的留言,一位新入学的女生感谢我们使她成为了“亚洲文化的一部分,国际大家庭的一份子 。”



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