This whole week our campus has bustled with 10th Anniversary doings. I’ve already told you about the preparations in the Ten Years Ago entry. Now I share with you the goings-on.
Before I go on: it would seem that I would post the two entries relating this event back to back. Because the celebration lasted all weekend, and I was under the misguided impression that the hike that wasn’t a hike was a part of our department’s celebration, I wrote those two entries before I wrote this one. One reason is that, while I did witness the Friday night festivities I did not bring my camera. It does not take such great pictures, being rather old, so I was waiting for some pictures to be posted on the school’s website. I figured I could hijack at least one to share with you.
Because it is so hard to select a single image or two to include with this entry, I offer you the link to the school’s website so that you can see them all. http://www.wpuic.net.cn/info/news/synry/5195.htm
The first picture is the assembled cast minus the Pop Diva, the second one is the Pop Diva and her entourage. The others are of other segments of the show. Some of the acts feature my students! Very exciting for me.
The picture I am including with this entry is one of the many banners strung up all over campus. Of all the pictures I took, I figured I should post the one people who read English can understand!
On Friday night there was an assemblage of dignitaries that gave speeches, followed by a nice meal. According to Sam, a substantial number of the faculty was there, as well as most of the school’s administrators. Conspicuously absent from the event was Sha-Sha, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. She is now on maternity leave, expecting her baby in 2 months.
The meal was served in the newly completed Teacher’s Cafeteria, just one building down from my apartment. The more senior of the staff enjoyed the fancy, chandelier lit dining room but we teachers dined in private rooms too. The food was fantastic, featuring various meat dishes, in particular one stewed beef dish I would have been happy to slather myself with and lick off, so tasty it was. There was an assortment of vegetable dishes and of course, the requisite fish that most everyone at our table stabbed at repeatedly with their chopsticks, prizing large portions of tender meat.
If I did not eat any fish, how did I know it was tender? By the way people kept dropping chunks of it while ferrying it from the dish to their mouth. Liquor flowed freely during this luncheon and conversation was loud and jocular. Many did not pay attention to how they were eating. Some, either by virtue of laughter or under the influence of alcohol did not have such good control of their chopsticks. By the end of the meal there were dropped morsels all over the place. And on those nice tablecloths, too!
Victor did not come to the celebration and Sam was mostly otherwise engaged, chatting and enjoying himself with his colleagues. I did not feel like a fifth wheel necessarily, but I did wish I understood Chinese better so that I could at least laugh when everyone else did. That is purely my fault. I did enjoy the meal but did not converse much. That suited me fine. I sensed an impending need for quiet time, anyway. As long as everyone else was enjoying themselves… and we did all have a good time, it seems.
Of course, the highpoint of the celebration would come on Friday night. Man, what a show that was! In spite of the rain…
There was singing and dancing. There was crosstalk and poetry reading. An icon of Chinese pop culture and her entourage made an appearance. She wriggled her scantily clad fanny through two songs, much to the delight of the students, collected an exorbitant fee and promptly left. It was gracious of her to show up at all; most superstars would not bother with an invitation to a tier 3 university, no matter how much he/she would get paid.
The kids had a blast. The stadium was jam-packed, both the stands and the infield area. A curious mannerism of Chinese concertgoers: they do not scream, stomp, clap their hands or whistle. They have these conical, telescoping, light-saber looking devices that they wave back and forth, not in time to the music. I have often alluded to the Chinese lack of rhythm; it is painfully evident when you have an entire stadium of people waving light sabers around in no particular cadence. It is enough to make one seasick, almost. If the stage had not been so well lit, the students waving their multicolored lights would have been quite a spectacle, even out of time. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, their glow was drowned out by the professional light racks illuminating the performers.
Have I told you already what cross-talk is? I believe I have, but I’ll summarize the concept again. Essentially it is a dialog between two or more opposing parties. It is generally meant to be comical but, as with all good comedy, it is rooted in truth. The participants dress in costumes reflecting their stance and their voice takes on the exaggerated tone of either the aggrieved or the champion of the issue being debated.
Although I appreciate the idea of crosstalk and have even made use of the concept in my classes (to great success, I might add), actually watching such a performance is lost to me. I simply do not understand Chinese well enough to catch the subtleties and nuance of the debate. Thus, while all those around me roar with laughter I study my nails and contemplate what color to paint them next.
Same thing with the poetry readings. Usually ten or twelve like-dressed participants stand on stage with binders and microphones, reading this poetry while gentle music plays in the background. Again, I appreciate the cultural significance of the activity but subtleties and nuance escape me.
Unfortunately most of the show comprised of crosstalk, poetry readings and skits. I had better luck understanding the skits because they are acted out. Feeling lost, and without direct companionship anyway, I left in the middle of the show. I did not have any bad feeling about it. I just didn’t feel up to watching a show I could not understand for the most part. Besides, it had started raining again.
I left the kids to their revelry and enjoyed the whisper of rainfall on the landscape.
At 10PM, once I heard the fireworks start I headed to the roof of my building. Now there was a spectacle I could enjoy! A full 20 minutes worth: reds, greens, purples! Loud bangs and ominous pops, each one promising a burst orchestrated to visually stun. Watching it from the solitude of my perch made the display more enjoyable instead of less.
Again I sensed I was entering a period of needed downtime. This whole week had a frenzied feel to it, with one whirlwind of activity after the other. Walking back down the 6 flights of stairs to my apartment I did not reflect on the day, the show, the fireworks or the kids enjoying themselves. My thoughts were more inward and self-involved: I conclusively proved that, besides the mostly absent Victor I was the only tenant in this building and, I had roof access. Not a bad deal.
I am proud to be a teacher at this school, and I am proud to have witnessed, at least in part, the celebration commemorating it. Now I should go home and recharge my batteries.