January 13, 2007 - Guyuan, China
I actually gave this post a good go before I abandoned it, it just didn’t feel the same without a picture.
whine bitch moan
But now one of my favorite students made this all possible by sending me one. Three cheers for the students.
The New Years Buzz
I’ve mentioned the buzz effect here before, last time in regards to earthquake rumors, and I’m wondering if I was a student I didn’t notice because I was so caught up in the moment.
This time around the buzz was New Years. The Western New Years in fact.
Each class looked barely able to keep from falling off the edge of their seats and I had no idea why. It’s just the New Year, right?
All week students had been loitering around the hallway - far too shy to actually come into my office - they would wait and waif until I took pity and went into the hall. Standing there - heads hung, lips pursed holding back those inevitable giggles and pointing, straight out at me like a compass, a bright red invitation - would usually be a group of three students. Not knowing the formal mechanics of all of this I would feign surprise, and ask if the card was for me. Furiously their little black-haired heads would bob and nod.
Really, for me? Again, a unison of quick, intense little nods.
I would open the card and exclaim with some gravity,
I am honored to be invited to your class party. And what time should I come?
After setting a time, the trio would skitter off, quite relieved to have held up so well under fire. Certain classes even tried to curry favor by offering me wrapped presents along with the cards.
This enacted itself out over the course of a few days, ending in a flurry of requests on Friday. I had accepted them all of course, and Saturday was going to be busy. I had upwards of fifteen classes to visit.
I hadn’t the slightest what to expect.
Showing up to my office on Saturday, I found the rest of the teachers there. The first question out of their mouths was what I had prepared.
Prepared? What? Uh-oh.
It was soon apparent that I should have prepared an act. Singing. Or even dancing.
I do neither. Not do I just not do them, I do them poorly. And by poorly, I mean so poorly that it’s usually embarrassing to watch.
It wasn’t even a situation where I could get up in front of 1200 people and make an ass of myself - thats fine. I’d be making an ass out of myself 18 times, in 6 hours, in front of 1200 people.
Grumbling to myself that this whole New Years party thing was overrated, I slowly walked from my office to the Senior 1 building. I started up the stairs to the second floor. Students wanting me to sing. Bah! And on up to the third. Performances. Bah!
Half-way up the set of stairs to the third floor a scream startled me. Seconds ago, standing on the landing above me were three of my students, but a quick scream and they tore off.
The hall was strangely quiet for a school wide party. Maybe I was blowing this thing out of proportion. Nothing to get worked up about. Poke my head in a few doors, wave, the students in their seats would wave back and on to the next one.
I reached the door to class 12. Good class - I could spend a bit of time here. Taking a bit of liberty - and hopefully the element of surprise - I pushed and opened the door.
A flash went off. And then another. Pictures.
The momentum of the door carried me inward and into a wall of wet. Wet, slimy and sticky something.
Before the flashes faded, my face was covered in shaving cream. I stumbled onward, arms waving vainly. Balloons popped overhead, raining confetti onto the sticky mass that was my head. From all sides I could barely see the streams of silly string being unloaded by the can onto me. Disorienting me further were the shrieks - the ear-splitting shrieks - from everywhere.
I felt like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Gnats buzzing around me, leaden arms dragging me down.
Slowly gaining my bearings, wiping what I could from my glasses, I saw Ms. Wang sitting in the front of the room next to the class head teacher. Both looked slightly better for the attention than I did. My feet crunched through piles of sunflower seed shells as I was led to sit down next to her. She smiled at me and burst out laughing - I looked the fool for sure.
The class quieted a bit and I further made out the desks in a circle around the room - facing us at the front. Clearing shaving cream from my ears I heard the small clicking noise of students happily chomping away on mounds and mounds of sunflower seeds and peanuts. Candy wrappers and balloons littered the floor. A brief respite indeed as I soon found a mic in my hand. I had no idea what I was going to sing. In fact at that moment I didn’t know any songs. Not a one.
Ms. Wang saved me.
She was handed a mic and started into “Happy New Year.”
I happily followed along.
We finished to eager applause that was meant for a far greater performance. Sitting, relishing being through with one horrifying song, I watched as students took turns signing and dancing in the middle of the floor.
The weight that pushed them down all semester, slumping their small shoulders and drooping their tiny eyelids, seemed gone. The last time I had seen them in the throes of such happiness was at the sports meeting in the fall.
It made me want to sing my wretched little New Years song over and over again for them.
Knowing I had so many more doors to open, I noticed a student with a camera, and asked Ms. Wang to take a photo of me and the class. Without the slightest encouragement I was mobbed.
I was lucky enough to be able to do that 17 more times.
The festivities, along with my voice, wound down around 10 - I stepped outside for a breather and wondered how I was going to massage the grin etched into my face out. My cheeks hurt, my ears were full of gunk and my collar itchy with confetti.
Still considering this, a hand grabbed my elbow and dropped a pile of bags of candy into my arms.
Mr. Ma asked me, quite after the fact, if I would like to come with a few of the teachers to bring candy to the students in the dormitories that couldn’t go home. Happy to help, we marched out toward the dorms.
The first dorm was full of my students - all Senior 1 girls - and as we came in the door the familiar screams. At first I tried going door to door but realized that I wasn’t so much under control of my movements, more swept along in a tide of small girls, all jockeying and pushing to show me their rooms. Being rather ineffective at passing out the candy - I took over room inspection - commenting on the beautiful nature of each successive room.
Each room tried outdoing the next - in one the students sang “Jingle Bells,” the next I was serenaded by 6 accordions (thats a once in a lifetime experience), in all, covered in more streamers and garlands.
It took another two hours to pass out the candy to the rest of the dorms.
As much fun as it was seeing the students enjoy themselves at their class parties - it couldn’t compare to giving the students stuck in their dorms my evening and knowing that I was able to, for at least a few minutes, put a big stupid smile on their faces.
Happy New Year.
Tumbleweeds... and no comments. How 'bout livening things up?