So This Is Christmas …
Another Christmas in China. It’s not so much different from any other day and like most every other teacher in the country, I’ll be working. I find myself in the throes of final examinations with visions of Spring Festival dancing in my head. I don’t really mind the working thing as it means I am able to finish the semester and begin my five week holiday a few days early. That being said, I found out Tuesday morning, that I could have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. I’ll type it again. I found out TUESDAY morning that I could have taken WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY off. Of course it was too late, as I had scheduled finals for both days weeks ago. It drives me nuts! Yet another example of the near total lack of planning (see here). I mean, I am all for one day at a time but come on people!
It’s been a crazy few days, so much is happening with one event after another and, like I said, it is all happening at the end of the semester. Last night, the Liuzhou Foreign Affairs Office held their annual Holiday Party. Each year a throng of foreigners are invited to a banquet where we sit, listen to a few speeches, have a bit of food and wrap it all up with the obligatory round of toasts to us, the honored guests. This year’s soiree was nice, I got to see some old friends and had a very good (but quick) meal. In and out. In and out because we were immediately ferried back to the college for the Foreign Language Department Christmas Show. I didn’t really want to go but I have to admit, as is often the case, afterward I was glad I did.
A lot of the students put on performances, with everything you would imagine at such an event. There was singing and dancing and and a few skits. What surprised me was that nearly every teacher and most of the administration also took part. Everybody from the Dean on down, took a turn on stage. I am embarrassed to say I was one of the non-participants. I had no idea the event was such a big deal (a few thousand students turned up) so I didn’t bother to prepare anything. Next year, I will rock the house. Seriously. I will tear that place up. Look for the news reports out of Liuzhou, China in December, 2009.
The stars of the show turned out to be two teachers performing a traditional Chinese crosstalk routine. Crosstalk, xiangsheng in Chinese (literally, “face and voice”), is a traditional form of comic dialogue that came about in China’s imperial Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). This is Mr. Ai, Director of Student Affairs, and Ms. Su, an English teacher on-stage last night.
Crosstalk is usually performed by two people, but can also be performed solo or even by a group of people. The performers will try their best to make fun of or take advantage of the other with a play on words, a technique that showcases the craft and wit of the Chinese language. Think Abbott and Costello doing “Who’s On First?”, but in Chinese. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the art was criticized as decadent and belonging to the old society, so much of the traditional works were lost. I gather the comedy form has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance but until last night I had only seen it on TV during Spring Festival. I had a hard time following along but I knew when to laugh, as hey had the audience in stitches.
This modern dance number was under-appreciated by the students. They enjoyed the hip-hop, lip sync styling of every other group that took the stage.
Ms. Su (a different one), Associate Dean of The Foreign Language Deaprtment, waits in the wings for her turn on-stage.
There was one completely live performance. A group of students have formed a pop-rock quintet and they muddled through a couple of songs with only the lead guitarist leaving much of an impression. He killed it, Clapton-esque at times. He probably has a future in music. The other kids? They need to study. They need to study hard.
William Yao is a second year business student. He is a bright, charismatic kid and a lot of fun for me. He is also absolutely the laziest student I teach. Here he is watching from backstage yet another group of gelled, rouged, big pimpin’, gangsta’ stylin’, hip-hoppin’, baggy pant wearin’ wannabees dance to a 10 year old NSYNC record. He is completely entranced by the performance. Five minutes later he and his posse were doing their own dancing.
Of course no Christmas show, even in China, would be complete without adorable, precocious children. My offering is yet another hip-hoppin’, gang-sign flashin’, vogue posin’, Asian cherub in a Santa hat. He was actually pretty good, only messing up his lip sync performance up a few times.
I may have some time tomorrow to shoot and post some photos, maybe a China Christmas on campus thing. The weather has turned, it’s been quite cool here the last few days, as low as 32F/0C. That’s cold for South China. I know what some of you are thinking so for those of you that don’t know, there is no heat in most buildings in the southern part of China. 32 outside = 32 inside. Certainly there isn’t any heat in the classroom. I taught yesterday in a coat, scarf and gloves, all of which are covered with chalk dust now. My kitchen is colder than my refrigerator. I wish that was a joke. Trying to look on the bright side, it is clearly too cold for cockroaches, I haven’t seen one in more than a week.
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So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so Happy Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young.
A very Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
I wish you peace…