Text: SNOWDROP by Mei Chi Chan

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Teil A: Text
SNOWDROP by Mei Chi Chan

She had come to tell them of her decision.
Standing by the door of the kitchen in the semi-darkness, a faint odour of bleach and onions greeted her like an old and comfortable companion. Silence, condensed by the hum of the refrigerators, echoed through and drew her in.

The fluorescent strips flickered before exploding off the hard, sharp surfaces, pricking out the edges, threatening the shadows. This was the kitchen that spoke not of home and its comforts but of forges, armoury and battle. For now, the steel rested. The oil in the deep fryer was cool, brown and thick as treacle. […]

She walked across the room to the chopping board that stood on its own. Knives and choppers of different shapes and sizes hung from one of its edges, resembling a set of monstrous teeth. She could almost hear the thud of a heavy blade cleaving through flesh and bone onto the wood below. Delicately, she traced the scars on the surface. Tiny fragments of wood tickled her fingertips. In two hours her mother would come down the stairs and enter this arena. The fires would be lit, the oil would begin to bubble and steam and the steel would start to clash. She remembered Friday nights when she was a child. Friday was the busiest night of the week. People invaded the take-away in hordes after the pubs had closed. Reeking of cigarette smoke and with the sour smell of drink on their breath, they demanded to be fed.

Inside the kitchen she would sit, unable to help: the still centre in the madly spinning wheel of movement around her. She would look backwards and forwards between her father and her mother. Their faces frightened her, she could not recognise them. They were not their daytime selves, they became something impersonal, mechanical, and even monstrous. They were like the knives, slashing, paring, chopping, slicing, dividing. Moving through the thick greasy white smoke like the warriors of old, advancing in the mists of dawn; they looked invincible. Every ounce of being was consumed in the task of making food. It could not be called ‘cooking’. Cooking sounded too homely. No, like alchemists, they brought forth food out of steel and fire. Their creations subdued and sated the hungry hordes that bayed impatiently outside.

[…] She walked round and round the kitchen, circling the aluminium worktop that was the centrepiece of the room. At times, she would stride, eyes wide and blazing. Then at other times her steps turned into a shuffle. She sighed and muttered, shaking her head: I can’t, I can’t do it, I can’t, I really can’t. They can. But not me. I’m too soft, too weak, too split. I don’t have it – what it takes. I – will – fail.

But there was another voice in her head, saying: you can, you can do it. Of course you can. You have had the training. You have the guts. You have stamina. That’s all you need. The rest will take care of itself. She heard footsteps. She felt a shaking in the depths of her stomach. They would ask her and she would not know what to say …

‘Snowdrop. That’s a snowdrop.’ The little girl listened deeply to the word.

Gemlike, it sank into her heart and made it glow. A blue-green stem, a slender arch over virginal snow, and a white pendant flower dangling like an echo over it. ‘A snowdrop.’ That first, never-ending winter in England. Frosted air that bit her lungs, toes that never thawed, strangers made stranger still, wrapped and hunched and invisible in their layers, voices that blew like gusts into her ears, sounded with meaning – until the word ‘snowdrop’. Something melted. It was the feeling that she could not express then, the feeling of a fragile white flower rising over the snow. Now she would call it ‘hope’. How thankful she was not to have known the word then.

They would ask her and she would say ‘snowdrop’ and they would understand. The word would turn like a key in their hearts. Snowdrop, snowdrop, a flower, a drop of …

Her mother and father broke into the space and light. She looked at them for a moment and there was confusion. In her mind they had been giants. Had they always been so small? How sallow and faded they looked, like parchment. In an instant, doubt vanished, and the two voices in her head united: They cannot win. I will not be able to win here either. It is the wood, the metal, the blades, the oil, the flames – that last. It is the flesh and the spirit that are bowed and twisted for their purpose. Those warriors of myth and legend were invincible only in stories. Blood is spilt, flesh and bone are torn and shattered and burnt. Only the weapons remain unharmed: wood and metal gleaming as though smiling. The victory belongs to them. All the while we feared the hordes beyond; all the while they were among us here. And my parents, what is left of them?

When she spoke, her voice was steady and clear. And when she told them that she would not stay and work in the kitchen they did not try to persuade her. Her father turned on the fryer and her mother lit the range.
(895 words)

Abridged from:
Jean Moore and John Catron, Diverse Cultures –Short Stories, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2001, pp. 58-60.

Mei Chi Chan was born in Hong Kong in 1967.
Her family moved to Nigeria for five years, before immigrating to Britain in 1974.

A Text production
Answer in complete English sentences.

1.1 Sum up what you learn about the protagonist.
1.2 Analyse the means by which the author illustrates the protagonist’s conflict.
1.3 Explain the function of “snowdrop” in the story.

Choose one of the following topics:

2.1 “She looked at them for a moment and there was confusion. In her mind they had been giants. Had they always been so small?” (ll. 57 – 59)
Reflect on how one’s perception of the world changes in the course of one’s life.

2.2 “… plan for the future – but plan for only what makes you happy. Not your parents, nor society, not your friends or the audience who will adore your books only after you’ve died an untimely death. Travel, indulge, explore. Be purposeless and random and creative and free …”
Discuss this approach to designing one’s life.
(From: Lauren Krugel, “Free!”, Young People's Press 2001, Quelle)

2.3 Explain the concept of ‘Britishness’ by evaluating the validity of at least two of the given statements about the United Kingdom.
• Being an island has made Britain different.
• Britain is a truly united kingdom.
• Unlike the US, Britain has never been a nation of immigrants.

Teil B: Translation
Struggling with Integration by Nadiyya Malik

[…] The hard working, independently owned open till late corner shops that typified the British Asians is no longer the case. This generational change is because the new breed of Asians is more multicultural and economically active with a desire to be accepted and integrated into the society. […]

It seems that the new breed of Asians are trying to fit in rather than integrating and are confusing the two. So by trying to fit in the British Asians are incorporating the western values and culture with their own becoming more evolved but this has instead created new issues. The influence and change is creating a struggle between being British but at the same time struggling with the cultural identity and roots.

This rebellious youth that has already thrown away the humbleness of their parents is not sure how much of the western culture they should incor-porate and what cultural traditions they should hold on to.
(158 words)
Abridged from: Quelle


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