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Colourful moments

By Anna Campbell

Rolling into Christmas is always a mad time as we frantically finish work commitments in order to clear our desks for some weeks of sunshine and relaxation. On top of that, Christmas parties and school break-ups are in full swing,

Christmas shopping has barely started (for me anyway), so it’s no wonder there are a few signs of cracks starting to show - for some of us!

I went to a school break-up recently in a frazzled and rather “I’m well over this year” state of mind.

At the break-up, a young, year eight, boy performed a solo rendition of the song “Say something; I’m giving up on you”.

From his first note, I was moved to tears and it snapped me out of my self-induced “I am so busy woe”.

One of the best things about this time of year is that we have a chance to relax and spend time with family and friends, but we also can take a moment to pause and reflect.

Even in a tough year, there are always special moments, full of colour, that make us truly laugh or cry - or both!

So I thought I would reflect on one of my colourful moments, which helped me connect to people from different backgrounds in a meaningful way.

On a recent visit to a company in Inner Mongolia we visited their new processing plant, which is enormous in proportions and has been assembled in a phenomenally fast time - the Chinese can certainly teach us a thing or two in terms of making things happen.

After this, we visited one of the local farmers for lunch.

If you are ever travelling in Northern China and you turn up to an event and are given a white or a blue scarf, know this: you are in trouble!

As part of being a guest of honour, the scarf is bestowed on you with some traditional song, simultaneously you are handed a drinking vessel which contains baijiu - a torrid tasting Chinese spirit made from sorghum (between 40 and 60% alcohol).

Part of the ceremony is that the guest of honour, while being sung to, flicks the baijiu to the sky in honour of their ancestors, across their forehead and then to the earth (I am a little hazy on the details of what the last two steps are honouring), before drinking all that is left in the vessel (a smart person would be very generous with their flicking - I was not that person).

This is not the first ceremony I have attended in Inner Mongolia, so you would think I would remember the drill, but halfway through the second lot of songs and drinking, my interpreter whispered to me that I should wait until they had finished singing before drinking, and this is why my vessel was being refilled and I was having to perform the flicking and drinking act several times!

What came next was a large farm-style banquet, where a four year old sheep had been slaughtered in our honour.

I had sore teeth for a good week after tearing large chunks of well-cooked mutton from enormous bones.

Much discussion and toasting ensued as the local mayor was there as well as farming and company representatives.

This could all have been a blurred memory merging with other banquets I have attended until the farmer made his toast.

In his toast he acknowledged that prior to this company setting up a processing plant in this district, he had to truck his animals thousands of kilometres at his costs to the nearest slaughter plant.

The farm itself was pretty basic and their standard of living simple.

The farmer spoke with immense emotion and sincerity to all of us as he explained the impact that better processing, farming and livestock breeding programmes, would have on their entire local community.

I remember feeling totally humbled and the reality of what we were celebrating in the banquet became very real.

Yes, I was brought to tears, much to the amusement of those around me and I made an excessively flowery speech in response.

Sometimes realising the impact of what you are involved in, even if you only play a small part, is incredibly rewarding.

I wish you all a lovely Christmas and hope that somewhere along the line you have a colourful moment that helps you to reflect on other moments you have had throughout the year.

Who would guess that my reflections would be triggered by a beautifully sung song in a school assembly?