Hi again! I realize I’ve been absent for quite some time now, but no worries! I’ll have the next few posts up shortly. They’ll have photographic evidence of my New Years’ celebrations in Hengyang, and my travels in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kunming, Seoul, and Beijing.
Ok, I know this great joke: So the atheists told the Jew and the Muslim to organize an English Christmas show at a Chinese school…
But really. It was a talent show. The lovely student in the center in the above picture was going to just sing a song like most of the other students who got through auditions. (Two. Freakin. Weeks. of auditions.) But at some point he decided that his voice wasn’t really that good, so he changed his plan. Instead, he decided to lip sync to an English song while dressed as Santa Claus, and then get down off the stage and pass out candy to the kids. It was honestly one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. And when he got down off the stage, it really didn’t matter how well he could sing, because the gleeful, shouting students completely drowned him out.
These students, for example:
The girl on the left was one of the performers, and the girl on the right was the hostess.
I sat over on the side of the stage by the soundboard, which you can see here.
I got saddled with running the music for the performances since the sound guy didn’t know what song went with what act. This also meant I got to keep an eye on our “assistant” who was running the powerpoint announcing each act. And, since I was sitting there, I also got to reassure the host and hostess and remind them how to pronounce difficult names.
Since I was stuck over on the side, I gave my camera to a helpful, responsible student to take pictures of the show. Well. Um. I got pictures of a few act at least… The student took so many pictures of the audience and the first four acts that my camera ran out of battery. Oops.
But at least I have some pictures of the first few. Here’s Santa’s first installment, when he unexpectedly opened the show. (In other news, I wish these kids would tell us before they decide to change the show.)
This student (below) was sitting in one of the extra chairs along the wall, which we had to put in when we ran out of auditorium seats. Which we wouldn’t have run out of if the students hadn’t made counterfeit tickets. Which we tried to avoid by using green paper. But even though they’re not allowed off campus, and don’t have regular access to a computer or printer, they managed.
And here’s the audience. Well, two thirds of it, at least. You can see the end of the judges table at the front. There were eighteen acts, and we gave out two first-place prizes, three second-place prizes, four third-place prizes, and prizes for best actor and best actress. Of course, we didn’t know about that last one until we were in the middle of the awards ceremony, and all the first- second- and third-place winners had gotten their gift bags full of goodies. So we improvised, and took the best actor and actress out to dinner. Off campus. It was very exciting for them.
I missed some of the awards, however, because I was busy sprinting across campus to get the bouquet we’d left in the English Library by accident.
Here’s what happened: After all the students performed, My co-teacher and I each sang a song as well. I went first. When I was done, my co-teacher rushed over to me and reminded me that we’d left the bouquet. I was supposed to be running the sound, but she had to sing, so I got to run. As I sprinted down the hallway, down four flights of stairs, across campus, and through an administrative building, I continued to exchange pleasantries with students who were apparently unable to see the massive, crazy, rushing panic I was in. Then I got to run back through a building, across campus, up four flights of stairs, down a hallway, and then walk back into the show as if I’d just stepped out for a moment. When I returned, I found that our assistant, who had auditioned for but not gotten into the show, had decided to highjack the event. Right after my co-teacher sang, before the host and hostess could start the awards ceremony, our assistant had grabbed a microphone, jumped up on stage and said to the audience “now I will sing you a song.” And she did. *sigh*
The rest of the show went relatively smoothly, and five hours after we’d arrived for the hour and a half show, we stumbled blearily back to our apartment, ate a frozen pizza, and collapsed into bed.
Merry Day-After-Christmas everyone! To anyone else who was organizing events, Christmas parties, and other get-togethers, It’s Over! Congratulations! You won’t have to do this again for at least another year.
As some of you may know, my roommate and I were in charge of the annual Christmas “Party” here at our boarding school in China. Now, it’s called a “Party” but it’s really a talent show. We planned it, organized it, made tickets, held auditions, held practices, bought prizes, decorated the auditorium, and crazied through all the other little details of running a show with students who didn’t realize what they were getting into, a generally unhelpful administration, and a language barrier the size of Santa’s gift bag.
One of the last things we had to do was pick up a bouquet of flowers for the teacher who helps us with things, as a “thank you” for helping us with the Christmas party (and for arranging the lights and sound system for us, because the language gap there would have been almost impossible to manage). But since we don’t have anywhere to keep a bouquet, we decided to just pick one up Wednesday afternoon before the show. So after lunch and more decorating time, we caught a motorbike taxi at the front gate and told the driver to take us “somewhere we can buy flowers to give as a gift.” He took us to the only two florists in town, conveniently located right across the street from each other.
Each flower shop had only two buckets of real flowers, the rest of the selection being fake flowers and fake plants. We decided on the shop with pink over the shop with yellow and white…which may have been a mistake in the end. But what can I say–we saw roses, and thought we’d be traditional. It ended up anything but traditional.
There were three kinds of flowers: dark pink roses, hot pink carnations, and pale purple somethings that looked a bit like large baby’s breath. We asked for the carnations, of which there were about fifteen, and the roses, about eight or so. We were picturing a medium sized, traditional-looking bouquet.
We asked how much it would cost, but they said they didn’t know. (Yes, I know. This is a florist’s shop. Their only job is to sell flowers. We couldn’t believe it either.) One lady took as to the back of the room where there was a chart of different styles of bouquets, and asked which one we wanted. Neither of us knew how to say “we just want a traditional bouquet. You’re the florist. Take the flowers and make them look pretty!” So we pointed to a couple variations, and very carefully indicated we did not want a box of flowers, but a bouquet. And then we sat back and watched the whole thing unfold.
First the carnations were each wrapped in green cellophane. I assumed this was to simulate greenery in place of ferns or green branches. Then the roses were dethorned, had their petals blown open, and were each wrapped in clear cellophane with little white printed flowers.
Then the florist began bundling the flowers together…including those purple baby’s breath things we hadn’t actually asked for. And then the other lady suddenly appeared with some greenery to spruce up the flowers. it turns out the cellophane was just for overall volume. And the greenery? Well, it didn’t come from the shop, and it’s didn’t come from a plant near the shop, so I’m still wondering if the owner of that bush gave permission for most of it to be cut off for our bouquet.
At this point the bouquet is looking larger (and stranger) than expected, but still manageable. So of course they didn’t stop there.
After the purple flowers, carnations, roses, bush branches, green cellophane, and flowered cellophane were all put together, the stems were wrapped in tape to hold it while the whole bundle was wrapped in clear cellophane. Then the bouquet was put in a stand, since the next step required two free hands. We started getting a little worried.
First, the florist stapled two pieces of pink plaid netting together and wrapped them around the outer edge of the flowers. Then she wrapped the whole bundle in a big piece of fancy purple paper.
And taped it up.
Then it got a huge bow.
This bouquet was HUGE. I can’t even describe the biggness of this pink and purple monstrosity. IT STANDS ON ITS OWN.
Finally, she tucked a few more purple flowers in (for color?), and it was done.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Never buy flowers in China.
We decided to go to a new restaurant for dinner tonight. The restaurant doesn’t really make much difference, to be honest. They all have almost exactly the same food. But sometimes one will be more expensive, or less spicy, or have better service than another.
This one was good, except for the owner coming in half way through. On her motorbike. In the middle of the restaurant.
And then the delivery truck showed up to drop off next week’s main course.
That, folks, is a double decker donkey truck. I am inordinately glad we ordered the chicken.
Played Hangman again today. After a while, as the students were unable to quickly come up with vocab, it became more of a personal game.
Then, when students started guessing each others’ attempts too quickly, words started changing mid-game.
“No! Wrong! It does not say boy! or dog. or cat. or fox. or…dang, what other three-letter pronouns do I know?”
Then it just got creepy.
Jeeze, who taught these students?!
I played hangman with my 7th graders today. It was very…shall we say, exciting? You see, hangman requires a slightly-more-than-basic grasp of grammar, as well as the ability to construct sentences. There were some relatively good sentences, and some words with random spaces in them to make them look like sentences. For example, one student wrote:
As for my personal favorite, you’ll have to decide if it counts as a success or a failure:
Scene: Paying for skewers of meat after taking pictures with the vendors late at night.
Me: “How much?”
Vendor: “No money! You’re Muslim, we’re Muslim. We’re the same!”
Me: “Do they know I’m not Muslim?”
Roommate: “Probably not.”
Me: “Would it be weird if I thanked you for your religion?”
Roommate: “No. This meat is good!”
Scene: Grabbing a taxi out of the middle of traffic by the foreign import supermarket.
Shaina: (to the taxi driver) “High Speed Train Station!”
Shaina: (to Safiyyah) “Get in the car!”
Safiyyah: (to the taxi driver) “Drive fast. Our train is in half an hour.”
Taxi Driver: “Half an hour?! Thirty minutes?! There’s a traffic jam!”
Safiyyah: “Half an hour. Drive fast.”
(at the train station)
Shaina: “I’ll grab the bag. You throw him the fifty and run!”
A snapshot of my weekend:
Scene: Standing outside the Changsha train station, an old beggar lady comes up to us. My roommate is riffling through the cheese in her purse looking for her phone.
Old Lady: *shakes hands at us to ask for money*
Roommate: “NO MONEY!”
Me: *crazy eyes*
Old Lady: *backs away slowly*
The next morning we woke up to a beautiful sight:
Everything was bright and beautiful, and breakfast was waiting downstairs.
Breakfast was noodles with vegetables, hotdog slices, a fried egg, and of course hot peppers. We are still in Hunan, after all.
After breakfast we taught Brother how to play American checkers with a board and pieces meant for an entirely different game. It worked, mostly, and I finally won a game after two days of playing board games and card games, so I was very excited.
After a bit of hanging around and contemplating the foggy morning, it was decided that the weather was too–cold? foggy? something, so instead of climbing the big mountain, we took a walkabout.
But first we had to wash up some apples to snack on while we walked. And since there’s a well, why not use that?
Then we ventured out from the back of the house.
We trekked out to the small hill you can see here, and climbed that instead of the mountain.
From here it looks pretty small, with some grass and bushes, right? Wrong. That thing is covered in bamboo and trees that is much more difficult to fight your way through than it looks. But we managed, and Grandma even found some vegis to pick on the way!
The view from the top was (as expected) amazing.
There was a brief argument between Brother and Grandma about which way to hike down the mountain, but we ended up following Grandma because, well, she’s the grandma. You kind of have to do what she says.
On our way down we came across this little spring. They told us the water was fresh from the mountain, and we drank some right there, using our hands as a cup.
Grandma showed us how to suck the nectar from these flowers, just like Honeysuckle! It was very tasty.
Then we found the farms.
Grandma picked us some bok choy to take back to school with us. I don’t think it was their farm, though. I’m not actually sure who’s farm it was, but I hope they don’t mind us taking some vegetables.
The first farms we came to were in a little cup of a valley between the big mountain, the little hill, and some ridges across the way that were apparently part of a different village.
We found a lake that didn’t have much water in it, and a cave! It might have had snakes!
We didn’t see any, though. But then, while Sister and Cousin took photos,
I turned around…
We kept walking. And when a man on a bicycle came by, we flagged him down and bought some fresh steamed buns filled with slightly-melted sugar to eat as we walked.
We found more ducks in the rice paddies!
And a pipe to cross, which Sister soon discovered was impossible to turn around on after you pass the half-way point.
Right about the time that the clouds finally started clearing off,
We came across this little temple:
After that we walked along a stream and through some more gardens, where we found the usual garden vegetables, as well as some fruit trees, including pomelos.
And bamboo! It wouldn’t be China without bamboo, right?
We saw many many chickens as well. Then we returned to the house for lunch, and were served chickens.
We helped (crack? open? de-chestnut?) liberate chesnuts from their thorny prisons for a while,
before grabbing our bags and heading downstairs,
for one final photo.