Saturday, January 1, 2011

Parties #4, 5 and 6

No, I’m really not exaggerating, there were a total of six Christmas parties in one week, but fortunately I only hosted 4 of them.

This 4th party was for my last group of students, and I have to confess I was nowhere near being in a mood to host a party. The kids didn’t seem like they wanted to party, either. This group of freshmen is so polite! They accepted whatever food I offered – no steamed buns for them; just finger foods. We played a little bit of Follow the Leader and some Hot Potato, and then they all declared themselves exhausted and left… but not without taking a lot of pictures, first. This group is the picture-takingest bunch I’ve ever met! They rival the stereotype about Japanese tourists clicking away at any little thing! They even take pictures of me while I teach class! Of course, I took a picture of the lot of them taking pictures of me. It was only fair.

I would be completely remiss if I failed to mention that these kids brought an armload of gifts. Literally: my arms were full of their gifts! Again mostly handmade things, but also little things like key chains, music CDs, cell phone charms (those are very big, here). I was touched beyond words and I hope the kids saw in my tears of gratitude how much their thoughtfulness means to me. They also brought a cake, which we ate just before everyone left save the usual contingent of 6 that stayed over to help me clean up.

I have the privilege of teaching these kids! They are great. But Boy! Am I glad all of this partying is over with!

Well, not quite…

It turns out that the school had a luncheon planned for the foreign teachers because it is a significant holiday for us. Victor elected to not attend, so I was the sole recipient of gifts, flowers and a full bottle of Bai Jiu (pronounced buy gee-ew), a traditional Chinese liquor that tastes suspiciously like moonshine. It also boasts a 50% alcohol content. Getting more moonshine-y all the time, isn’t it?

I was ambushed by this party. Sam had mentioned a luncheon for Victor and I but did not tell me which day, so imagine how fortuitous it was that I had decided to leave the house relatively early to do some last minute Christmas shopping on that day! On the good news side, Sam caught me before I left; on the better news side, I was all showered up and ready to go by 10AM, instead of waiting until my usual afternoon shower time (when the bathroom warms up a little). I would not have been ready for that 11AM luncheon had I done my normal routine.

Back to the Bai Jiu for a moment. Well, the whole party. Excepting Victor, the same administrative members who hosted the Welcome Aboard party 4 months ago also hosted this party. They were overwhelmingly concerned about whether I had adjusted to being here, and whether I was comfortable in my apartment or if I needed anything. My comfort level was demonstrated by being able to converse with everyone in Chinese, and even relating a funny anecdote, fully in their language. We laughed a lot and toasted each other a lot with Bai Jiu, which causes significantly more problems than toasting with beer. Remember the alcohol content of Bai Jiu? We were quite the limber and cheery group as we left the dining hall.

The final Christmas party was later that same day, with Carrie Ann and her group of friends. Olaf, who is German; Matt, who is Australian and his wife Ann, who is English; Brian who is French-Canadian and has a lovely Chinese wife named Helen, and Carrie Ann herself, who is Canadian. If nothing else, we are a diverse bunch.

All of us went to Aloha’s, a traditional American diner in the Hanyang section of Wuhan. I had never been there so it was quite a treat, not just to spend Christmas Eve bantering in 4 different languages, but also eating turkey, baked to perfection; ham, tender and sweet; along with mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, veggies, rolls and a drink of our choice. I chose peppermint hot chocolate. The food was ‘eat till you pop’ available but the drinks were pay-as-you-go.

Besides enjoying the succulent meal, Janie and George, the restaurant owners-operators also provided entertainment. They both sing beautifully and play the guitar and ukulele; they treated us to many traditional Christmas songs, one of them being The Twelve Days of Christmas. On the first day of Christmas, my ‘laoban’(boss) gave to me Sophia dancing the hula!

Wait a minute! My first time in this restaurant and you want me to get up and do the hula? How did you even know my name was Sophia? My eyes narrowed as I gazed suspiciously at Carrie Ann; she is friends with these people. She might have called ahead and arranged all this. Not that I’m that egoistic but there just aren’t that many people named Sophia in the world, let alone in China. I had to wonder…

Turns out one of the waitress’ English name was also Sophia, and it was she who was called on to hula. But… I could not resist the joke; on the last verse, after going through all of the days of Christmas, I too got up and did the hula! The crowd roared with laughter, and I laughed till I cried. We wrapped things up by singing Mele Kalikimake together. What a great evening!

Jennifer, Garrett, Darrell: I miss you so bad my heart aches. Gabriel, not being able to wrap my arms around you and kiss your sweet face is devastating. George, Chris, I miss sharing the holiday with you. Ron, Ann, Keith, Mike, miss you, you, you and yep, you too. Clayton, Crissy: ditto. Lisa, Kevin, Mark, Liz, Woody, EVERYONE!… sigh!

But there was plenty of holiday cheer here, too.

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