BEIRUT, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- To most Chinese, Lantern Festival is a moment for family reunion, yet for some Chinese peacekeepers, they are still active on UN missions in places far away from their home and families.
Zhang Hongjun, a Chinese peacekeeper in Lebanon, is from China's southwestern mega city of Chongqing. For him and his teammates, homesickness is inevitable.
He told Xinhua that because of pressing time schedule, he has to keep up working and cannot celebrate the festival with his family back home this year.
Zhang's team is now tasked with the job to reinforce outer-fences for camps of Ghanaian peacekeepers. To ensure that all team members can have Yuanxiao, a traditional Chinese snack for the festival, Sun Zhi, the team leader, had made good preparations.
Peng Shoucong, another Chinese peacekeeper, told Xinhua that it is his fifth time to come to Lebanon for UN peacekeeping mission, while the third time to spend the Spring and the Lantern festivals in the country.
When he was to leave home for the mission, his daughter clinched his legs and would not let go. He said he misses his family very much.
Perhaps Jin Wei's story is sadder. His father was struggling with advanced cancer when he was about to fly to Lebanon. To make sure that he would not be distracted, his family lied to him about the seriousness of the illness. Jin's father passed away one month after he arrived in Lebanon.
Jin and his colleagues are responsible for clearing landmines in the Lebanese border areas with Israel.
He felt regretful for not staying at his father's bedside during his last hours, and for not spending more time with his mother and little sister. He said maybe working is a way to at least put his sorrow away for a while especially at this very special moment.
In the past 10 years, Chinese peacekeepers have disposed of tens of thousands of landmines and unexploded bombs and extended the mine-free area near the Blue Line by some two million square meters, winning the reputation as the most efficient mine disposal team in UNIFIL.
Currently there are some 1,700 Chinese peacekeepers in the Middle East, fulfilling a wide range of non-combat tasks.
The accumulative number of Chinese peacekeepers deployed in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East has so far surpassed 15,000.
China, already the top contributor of peacekeeping forces among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, is preparing to make even bigger contributions to UN peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and elsewhere.