Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Year End Parties

Xin Nian Kuai Le! Pronounced ‘sheen knee-an k-wai leu’ this means happy New Year in Chinese.

The Chinese celebrate both Lunar New Year and the new year as denoted by the Gregorian calendar. Everyone knows when that is: midnight of December 31st. For that the greeting is as written above.

Chun Jie, pronounced ‘ch-une (rhymes with june) gee-ay’ is the Chinese New Year, which this year falls on February 3rd. It will ring in the year of the rabbit. School will be out of session, campus will be deserted and everyone from migrant worker to expats will be traveling home. Obviously I will report on that in depth when it rolls around. For now, I teach you that greeting: Chun Jie Kuai Le.

But today I have to tell you about the joyous celebrations around campus to ring in the New Year as we know it.

Last Wednesday the students put on their show, replete with dancing acts, comedy sketches, poetry readings and something called ‘cross-talk’. Cross-talk is a dialog, simply put. This particular cross-talk involved one student who appeared to be from the country during the 80’s and the other who was a modern day city woman. They were discussing the merits of their position. I didn’t catch much of the dialog but each stood staunchly on her own position and denigrated the other. From the audience’s reaction, it was quite funny!

And then there was singing. My goodness! I have a student, a tiny little girl named Jessica who can sing to rival both Whitney Houston and Leann Rimes, or whichever vocalist you judge to be talented and powerful. I mean this child is a belter with incredible range, all the while looking angelic with her bangs and her little white dress. There was another pair of students who performed a duet of one of my favorite Chinese songs; they could have put the original singers to shame.

All in all a great and thoroughly enjoyable show. I was really looking forward to the teachers’ show this Friday, though. The teachers put on a show for the kids and, come to find out, we have some pretty talented teachers here, too! Dancing, singing… pretty much the same format as the kids’ show, but on a much more lavish scale.

I had a vested interest in this show. I was going to be in it, not just watching it! During the luncheon for the foreign teachers the secretary of Foreign Affairs asked if I wanted to participate. She had heard through the grapevine that I was singing in class to help the kids speak English properly and wanted to see for herself if I could actually sing. I ‘auditioned’, singing an acapella version of “Its Just Another New Year’s Eve” and Presto! I have a part in the show!

I opted to sing a song of my own creation, which had to be translated into Chinese. Otherwise, nobody would know what I was singing about! And then, we turned it into a duet because the Maintenance Manager wanted to sing with me – not sure why. In any case, it was great fun teaching him the English parts and we shared a lot of laughs while I struggled with the Chinese parts.

Because this was a comical song about me being constantly called ‘waiguoren’ – foreigner, it was decided that I would dress up as a Chinese person and he would dress up in Western garb and wear a blond wig. We looked a sight! Just wait till I send you the video!

Rehearsals were a bit sketchy because the Chinese seem to do everything last minute. Although I knew about the show last Friday, it wasn’t until this Wednesday that the office wanted the lyrics for my song. Some students and I stayed up after their show to translate it so that Sam could get some rest. Otherwise the burden would have fallen to him to translate.

Next we had to rehearse it. I knew it cold because it was my song, but the maintenance manager had a long way to go. Turns out I did too because of the decision for us to reverse roles – he becoming the foreigner and I the Chinese person. We rehearsed all day Thursday.
On Friday he told Sam that the song would be more effective if it were sung in Wuhan dialect rather than ‘common speech’, which we had translated it into. More language issues to deal with and I had to learn my Chinese lyrics all over again. No problem… mostly.

Come ShowTime I was a bit nervous, and I’m sure Mr. Wang was too. He was itching to get backstage and change into his costume but there were several numbers to be performed yet and there was no reason for us to not enjoy what we could of the show as members of the audience. I am sincerely impressed with the amount and variety of talent on this campus! Not just the kids are talented but the teachers are too.

Soon enough it was time for us to ‘cue up’. We went backstage and changed into our costumes. Mr. Wang had thoughtfully requested that the lyrics to the song be pasted on cardboard and mounted on a music stand so he would not forget what to sing.

What madness backstage! Costume changes, sound equipment, all of the logistics of putting a show together. And there I am, being a part of it, not understanding a single word of what is being shouted, directed or said. Mr. Wang put on his blond wig and pantaloons and I put on my Oriental shirt.

With the spotlights on us, Mr. Wang and I sang our hearts out. Of course, something went not quite right and it didn’t go down as we rehearsed it, but the audience didn’t know that. All they saw was their foreigner teacher and some clown in a blond wig call each other Foreigner! It turned out to be a nice comedy routine and everyone enjoyed it. We got lots of laughs.

And we got prize money, too! I didn’t know this was going to be part show and part competition, but our number took a prize and we got 200Yuan for our performance! Mr. Wang refused his share, but I have an idea: I’m going to treat him to a bottle of Bai Jiu and wrap the money around it.

Sam already told me Mr. Wang will not be insulted by that gift.

Note: I’ll post they lyrics to the song in the next entry. Don’t worry; I’m only going to post the English ones!

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