a chinese-style christmas party

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.

So Young Bar

So Young Bar

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.

Albert chopping away in the kitchen

Albert chopping away in the kitchen

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.

Yuki

Yuki

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!

Eva and Robin

Eva and Robin

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.

The students try to teach me to make dumplings but I'm afraid they're not very successful

The students try to teach me to make dumplings but I’m afraid they weren’t very successful

the art of making dumplings

the art of making dumplings

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.

Front L: Eva, Kitty, Barbara Back L to R: Grace, Vivian, Vivi, Nico, JoJo, Helen, Fiona, Sherry Front R: Albert, Estelle, Stone

Front L: Eva, Kitty, Barbara
Back L to R: Grace, Vivian, Vivi, Nico, JoJo, Helen, Fiona, Sherry
Front R: Albert, Estelle, Stone

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. 🙂

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Categories: Asia, China, Christmas, ESL Teacher, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Holidays, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “a chinese-style christmas party

  1. What a lovely and caring group of students. The party they organised for you is a tribute to their affection for you. What age are your students? I have been to the Korean karaoke rooms, lots of music, drinks and fun. As the night wore on and the drinks flowed the music got louder…

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    • Yes, my students in this particular class are really lovely. Luckily I will have this same class all year, so we will become really close over such an extended time. My students are freshmen in college, so 18, 19 and 20 years old. I love Korean karaoke rooms (noraebang). Did you live in Korea, or did you find them near your home?

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      • Our son taught English in Korea from 2001 to 2006 and has a lovely Korean wife. We visited a number of times and loved the country and the friendly people

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      • I’m glad you’ve been able to visit your son in Korea! Where is your son living now? Did you visit anywhere especially endearing to you?

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      • Our son now lives on the Goldcoast, not far from us, and is still teaching. I have lots of memories of Korea but my favourite is attending our son’s wedding over there and meeting our new Korean family. It seems that Korea has slipped under the tourism radar but it is so easy to get around, very friendly and safe and lots to see.

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      • Oh, that’s nice your son’s back home again. I’m sure it was wonderful attending a Korean wedding and meeting the Korean family. Were you able to communicate much with them? I know Korea is not on the tourism track, but there are some truly beautiful places to see there. I wrote about them in my Korea blog. I had some wonderful (and some not so wonderful) experiences there. 🙂

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      • Bo-young our daughter-in-law speaks very good English so she could translate for us.
        I will take a look at your Korean posts, it will be interesting.

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  2. Kathryn likes the norebang. It’s interesting to learn all the customs in different countries.

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  3. What an amazing experience you had with these lovely young people. I really think I like the sound of their more “sedate” way of partying. What a pleasure to have witnessed this, Cathy. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    • It was a lovely experience, Sylvia, and I was thrilled that they threw this special party. We all had a good time, I think, except for maybe Robin, who stayed in the kitchen cooking the entire time! They really are very innocent, aren’t they?

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  4. How touching – these students really care for you a lot, Cathy! It must have been heart-warming for you to attend this event, created in your honor. Interesting cultural differences in young people’s ideas of “partying.” I love to see that board games are still popular…

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    • It was very heartwarming, Annette. Isn’t their idea of a party so innocent? I keep hearing stories about how China is such a drinking culture. I found that without a doubt in Korea, but I have yet to see it in China. I just must not have met up with the partying people!

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  5. It all seems wonderfully innocent, Cathy, and I love it 🙂 Nobody plays board games here any more but I remember making multiple moves in chequers. I still didn’t often win though 🙂 I love the ‘doing it together’ stuff! Some day you’ll make a fine dumpling maker girl!
    Did you have this weekend off? The bit in between is a bit strange, I always find. I’m sitting with a Baileys and my naughty chocs while the lads are at the footie. Thought I’d check on you before I go finish this week’s walk. 🙂 Anything happening New Year’s Eve, Cathy? Sending hugs for the 2015 🙂 🙂

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    • Hiya Jo! That party did seem wonderfully innocent. I love playing board games and I was happy to see the students playing them with such dedication. Dumpling making required a little too much patience and dexterity for me, Jo; my fingers just weren’t quite nimble enough. I did have the weekend after Christmas off and I didn’t do much of anything. I’ve had too much work to do, plus I’ve been busy planning my long holiday. It’s so much work to figure all this out, especially the China part. Travel in China is never easy.

      Hope you enjoyed your Bailey’s and naughty chocs! New Year’s Eve wasn’t much for us. My friend Erica and I planned a game party, but only one person showed up, and both of us begged off before midnight. Oh well, I am never thrilled by the New Year celebrations; I’m more interested in the resolution making and dreaming of the year ahead. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like to hear about your adventures in China, along with your choices of food. I think the dumplings and food look delicious. I came over from Jo’s post to check you out. I have a few people who are from different countries, which I hope you will visit my post sometime soon. Happy Chinese New Year, very soon! I shall enjoy watching fireworks from around the world, thanks to television!

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    • Thanks so much for visiting and for your comment. Sorry I’m so far behind in replying! You’re so nice to drop by. I’ve had such a hectic December and now we’re finishing up the semester, so the demands on my time won’t let up for a couple of weeks yet. I will drop by to visit you soon. Isn’t it great to sit in your own house and watch the fireworks all over the world?

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  7. A terrific blog, Kat. I loved looking at all the pictures

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    • Thanks so much, Dai. It really was a fun little party my students threw! I hope your holidays were good. We’re busy wrapping up the semester now. In only two weeks, I’ll have a 6-week holiday. 🙂

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