Friday, December 26: This afternoon, I went to a Christmas party that ramped up my festive spirit for the holidays. The party was thrown by the students from my ORIGINAL 1408 class (to whom I taught Writing and Speaking & Listening BEFORE the midterm exams that reshuffled the students into different classes). I was utterly astonished by the amount of planning, coordination and work that went into this party.
The venue: First, the students rented this room in an apartment building. I guess it must be a room that is rented out to college students a lot, because it was all equipped with a kitchen and cooking stuff, a mahjong table, a singing room, a living room, and a dining area.
The organizers: As far as I could tell, the planners behind this event were Yuki, Albert, Robin and Eva. They are some of the brightest students in my class, and are usually the driving force behind most discussions in class, as well as any outside activities. The first person I saw when I was ushered into the kitchen was Albert, chop-chopping away. You can see the bowl of ground pork to be stuffed into the dumplings.
Yuki is probably the best student in my class as far as English-speaking ability. I usually go to her when I have questions about anything in China. I believe she and Robin were the driving forces, and the ones who organized the room rental, food purchases, cooking, and the games.
Eva and Robin are also excellent students. Robin says she loves to cook, but the poor girl stayed in the kitchen for the entire party. She made every kind of dish imaginable. I mostly ate dumplings, eggs, tofu and vegetables. I had told them before the party that I really didn’t eat much in the way of meat. However, that didn’t stop Robin from cooking up chicken, some kind of seafood soup, and other foods that I didn’t sample. An endless array of dishes kept coming out of the kitchen during the entire four hours I was there!
Dumplings: The students put me to work right away making dumplings. I was pretty clumsy at this task, and my dumplings were ugly and misshapen little things.
Games: I saw a game that looked similar to our Monopoly, but no one seemed to be playing it. Someone was always at the “chess” table, and a big crowd was playing mahjong in one rom for the duration. Most of the players were boys. I played a game of the big bad wolf, but I can’t say I ever really understood what we were doing. I also played a game of Chinese checkers, and I learned the Chinese rule that you can jump not just single jumps: >X>X>X, but you can also jump equal spaces on each side of your opponent’s marbles, as long as you don’t go into one of the star “territories:” >>X>>X>>X. Or you can combine single and double jumps in one move. I really had to think hard about this, as I wasn’t used to this rule, but despite my slowness and many missed moves, I still managed to beat Eric, my opponent. Now I know how to play REAL Chinese checkers.
Singing: I loved the Korean tradition of noraebang, or singing karaoke in a special room. I spent many nights in Korea singing and drinking the night away. I did this not only with ex-pat friends, but also with my Korean colleagues at least once a month, when we went out for a staff dinner and noraebang.
In China, they have similar singing rooms but they’re called KTVs. I’ve never yet been to one, but I told my students I’d really love it if we all went there one night. They said it’s very expensive, that they don’t drink when there, and that they often go there to play games rather than to sing. They sound a lot different from Korean noraebangs. At today’s party, there was a karaoke machine and the students were singing away. I love this activity, and I was right there with them when I knew the songs. Leo sang nearly every song, but he preferred Chinese songs, which were lovely. He and Albert and Sherry, and eventually Stone, sang the afternoon away in both English and Chinese. To me this was the most enjoyable part of the party. I think singing brings people together in ways that nothing else can.
I wish I could download some of the videos I took of them singing, but I can’t ever seem to download videos to YouTube here in China. YouTube is blocked in China, but I can usually get on it to watch videos through the VPN. So I think it must be my slow internet connection that makes it impossible.
Students: Throughout the day, I walked around taking random shots of the students. Before I left, I went into every room and took a group shot. Here is my original class 1408, which has changed since midterms. However, the new students who joined our class after midterms weren’t invited (that made me sad, but it was the students’ party and they did it their way). In addition, the old students, who left my class for either the highest or the lowest level classes after midterms, attended. The original class will always have a special bond, I think, and no mandatory separation will make them part ways.
The students asked me how the university in China differed from universities in the U.S. I told them there were many things different about teaching English in a foreign country and universities in the U.S. What I didn’t tell them is that this party was totally different than a party you’d find on an American university campus. First, there was no alcohol at this party. Even though I’ve heard China has a big drinking culture, I have yet to witness that firsthand. There was absolutely no alcohol of any kind at this party. Also, I can’t imagine a college fraternity party where students would cook such a huge amount of food during a party. It would all be catered or hired out. Also, rather than playing games and singing karaoke, there would be loud music, dancing, and mingling, and who knows what other kinds of activities. This party was very sedate, except for the boisterous game of mahjong that involved a lot of shouting and laughing!
Even though my Christmas day was awfully lonely, I did talk on Skype twice to Mike and the boys. This party saved the holiday for me here in China. It was really a lovely time of bonding with my students. 🙂