Mr Jin's new shop at Gerbergässlein.
Mr Jin's new shop at Gerbergässlein.
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Local News Summary of December, 28th

  • Olympia 1908 Fasnacht society distances itself from the main committee
  • «A good bird chooses the tree which it sits on»: Happy Chinese man moves to Gerbergässlein

Olympia 1908 Fasnacht society distances itself from the main committee

The latest developments around the Fasnacht committee have ignited the Fasnacht society Olympia 1908 to take a radical step: As a traditional Fasnacht society, its members oppose the new direction of the committee. They have distanced themselves by launching their own badge.

Fasnacht is wild and uncontrollably creative. For a long time, the Olympia 1908 Fasnacht society has endeavoured to steer the jester's licence the way they like. Too-strict rules for the «cortège», together with «arbitrary and non-transparent» distribution of important subsidies are forcing the traditional Fasnacht organisations into a tight corner, according to the society. 

«The committee steers the organisation of the Fasnacht event in the manner of a French absolute ruler,» Dario Conti, the Fasnacht manager of Olympia 1908, said. «It can be celebrated: the cortège has become a well-attended event and a mere parade, and also received exposure in the media, e.g. when Fasnacht was given UNESCO world heritage status. With the help of rewards and subsidies, the committee tries to improve the quality of cliques, carts, and Schnitzelbängg (singers) which are nothing else than an interference into their artistic freedom. The mainstreaming of Fasnacht was rewarded by the UNESCO listing which means our traditions will be sold as a tourist attraction.» 

Cliques carry responsibility 

As a participant of this culture, and even older than the committee, societies like Olympia must have an eye on such developments. The discontent of the active Fasnacht participants can be seen inside and outside of Olympia 1908. The society's Fasnacht manager said it is ready to take the necessary consequences to deal with this, even if it is not easy. Mr Conti said the members «hugely regret that Olympia 1908 has to distance itself from a Fasnacht because of the way it is being organised by the committee,» and go in a different direction. 

Their own badge 

In order to soften the financial blow of not getting any more subsidies, Olympia 1908 has launched its own badge. The members hope this income will finance a Fasnacht which «concentrates on the real values,» with a possible surplus to be spent on the junior Fasnacht. The Olympia-badge can be purchased for 8 francs from every Olympia member. The badge has been designed by clique artist Dorian Weber. 

«A good bird chooses the tree which it sits on»: Happy Chinese man moves to Gerbergässlein

Mr Jin ran his street food stall in Pfluggässlein for eleven years. By offering tasty Chinese food «to go» for more than a decade, the modest chef became a local celebrity in Basel. However, disaster struck for Mr Jin when his rental contract was cancelled. 

When this happened, Mr Jin's wife, Mei, looked around for a long time to find an affordable replacement. Her Chinese shop was also affected by the decision to cancel his rental contract. Just when the well-loved family was about to lose hope, it struck gold: Just next to the «Schluggstube» and the Presser DIY shop at Gerbergässlein - only a few metres away from their old location - they found new premises. Overjoyed, Ms Mei signed the rental contract soon after having a look at the place. From January onwards, Hengjun Jin and Quimei Xie can welcome their regular customers to their new premises at Gerbergässlein 26. This time they can do everything together; unlike at the old location, Mr Jin no longer has to stand outside to sell his food. The shop windows will be redesigned so that Mr Jin can stand inside the shop and continue to serve his customers outside from there. 

What at first seemed like a catastrophe for the couple was transformed into a great opportunity which they say will benefit their customers. Mr Jin will offer his Chinese food not just at lunchtime but also in the evenings. «Our customers want to buy food on their way home so they don't have to cook themselves,» said Ms Mei. The menu choices will be widened to include traditional Chinese dumplings, which will be freshly made just like all the other food. Mrs Mei will also sell Chinese tea and accessories since «good food and good tea are very healthy,» she stated. This is in general true for Asian cuisine – nevertheless, according to an old Chinese saying, «one should be wary of men whose stomachs do not wobble when they are laughing!» Ms Mei recommends that people drink more tea and less coffee. In the separated back part of the shop, Italian clothes are also for sale.

From China to Basel

The married couple Jin Xie – in China, both spouses keep their surnames – comes from Liaoning province in Northern China, not far from the Korean border. Ms Mei was teaching at an economics school where the five years younger Mr Jin was her student. Her feelings for her younger student and her Christian belief caused an ethical crisis to the-then 28-year-old Ms Mei. She did not want to give any more details but would only say that she looked for a way to get out of her situation, which she found through studying in Switzerland. 

She had to submit many applications to get a visa before she could study for three years at the Hotel Management School in Lucerne, which started in 1998. In that time, she never lost contact to her former student. However, she no longer saw a future with Hengjun, and after three years invited him to Switzerland to tell him personally. «When I saw him again, I could see how big his love was for me. His beautiful heart convinced me that I wouldn't find a good man like him ever again.» One year later they got married.

A lot has happened since then. Four children - two boys and two girls (now aged between 4 and 14 years old) - were born. Ms Jin and the children have become Swiss citizens. Mr Jin could have applied for the passport a long time ago but he remains emotionally connected to his homeland, even if they «have achieved great success here». Since 2004, they have been running the «7000 food» restaurant at Hüningerstrasse. They even organise catering for up to 1000 people and proudly refer to the restaurant's website.

The ethical crisis is over, and the family Jin Xie is very happy in Basel. Every two years, the entire family goes for a visit to relatives in China. They are also active in the Gellertkirche. But not all problems have been solved: Since their current flat is undergoing renovations, the family of six is looking for an affordable flat from June 2018 onwards. There will be a solution here too according to another Chinese proverb: «If the old doesn't go, the new doesn't come.»