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December 22, 2006 - Guyuan, China

That Holiday Spirit

Speaking Competition

Christmas Cheer in Yinchuan

My presence has been requested.

So my meager plans of travel over this mini-vacation were dashed by a State dinner in Yinchuan.

I should be returning to the hamlet of Guyuan on Saturday or Sunday. Or Monday.

Happy Holidays!

Bolstered by the Crowd

Fortunately Hemorrhaging face is the exception around here…

My students prove themselves over and over again to be amazing. A “Hello Mr. Allister,” ear-to-ear grin and bow from every student I pass in the hall makes it impossible to go home grumpy. Admittedly in class some students do their best impression of a lump on a log - but most are attentive and eager to practice their English.

Recently I had the honor of being invited to this semesters Senior 1 speaking competition.

Evening classes were canceled, the teachers had off and the students seemed thrilled.

I showed up to the event about 5 minutes late and, trying to avoid distracting the students with a grand entrance, I snuck in the back of the hall.

No such luck. No sooner had I entered the auditorium then the timbre of the student hum changed. A whisper swept across the audience as a mass game of telephone played itself out and over the students. A wave bounced its way into the far corners of the auditorium and then…

As if an aftershock rebounded back towards me, a visible wave of heads turned, grinned and waved at me.

Queue big stupid grin from yours truly. It’s easy to let this get to your head.

After the excitement of the foreign teacher subdued a bit the competion began. The top two students from each class recited a story from memory - some 5 minutes of monologue - and the crowd listened intently. The fourth or fifth student gained the stage and began his story, it went well for a minute or two but I could see all the way from the back that his knees were shaking and his voice stammering. Finally, he broke, and with a sigh he stopped.

That’s when the applause roared to life.

Applause. The entire auditorium was engulfed. Cheers of support and feverish clapping, all for this poor kid. The unnerved student raised his head, gave a meek smile and finished his speech.

The crowd had seen him falter and without a second thought had come to his aid. They clapped and cheered until the memory returned. This happened not once but three or four times.

That brings a smile to your face.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am to be teaching the group of students that I have.

» Link lovin’

American Torture - The outright torture of American citizens.

Big Boats - The big one was raised from the deep after an Iraqi attack and now, get this, gets to serve out the rest of her life as “a floating storage and offloading unit.”

Drop Dead Gorgeous - Daniela Edburg takes a poke at our glutonous cravings.

Reach Out and Hypersonically Touch Someone - Tungsten kinetic kill weapons coming at you cherry red and at mach 5. Hurrah…

Naturalized Idiots - You think you could pass the naturalization test? Half of New Yorkers couldn’t.

Coney Cleanup - The few times I’ve actually been to Coney Island, part of the allure has been the raw edge, and now that’s being cleaned up.

Tumbleweeds... and no comments. How 'bout livening things up?

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