This past weekend, Hangzhou Wanxiang Polytechnic celebrated its 60th anniversary and the school officials spared no expense on putting on a grand performance. We were made aware of this event shortly after our arrival to the school in August but at the time we were told it may conflict with our National Day break. We’re not sure why they would have told us that since the anniversary celebration was clearly scheduled 2 weeks after the fact. Plus, there was no way that Elyse and I would have forgone our honeymoon so that we could be apart of the festivities.
We made it perfectly clear on several occasions that we are neither puppets nor mascots and had no intentions on ever singing or dancing. On the very few occasions that our last school in Shenzhen did invite us to dinners or banquets they always told us that the other teacher expected us to sing English songs. Our current school plays all the customary Chinese games as far as not telling us concrete schedules and times, but they get points for actually inviting us to take part in activities.
The school did however ask us to be apart of a 60th
Anniversary video that would be shown at the celebration. Of course with no warning at 8 am the day we were supposedly to shoot a group of students accompanied by camera crews knocked on our door. We would have five minuets to get ready and head to where the shoot would take place.
Our school is subsidized primarily from the Wanxiang Company which is one of China’s largest manufactures of auto parts. We were told that the President of Wanxiang Company would be in attendance. The party member in Beijing in which I had my meeting with a few weeks prior had told me he is old friends with the President of Wanxiang, so I was looking forward to meeting him. The President of Hong Kong Polytechnic, which is affiliated with our school, would also be in attendance. Elyse and I thought that if we decide to stay one more year then it would likely be in Hong Kong so we were both looking forward to meeting him as well.
A week before the anniversary workers hung giant banners, put up flags, brought in hundreds of potted flowers, blew up giant balloons, and erected a colossal stage on
the soccer field, complete with lighting and sound equipment. The day before the event Elyse and I were in the Foreign Affairs Office and were shown the video of us that would be shown the following day. The quality was quite amazing. There is about a five second clip of Elyse and I speaking with other students. In that short time frame there is a good shot of Elyse smiling and a nice shot of the back of my head. We hope to get a copy so we can share it with those back home. Also all the teachers were given new pale pink polo shirts to wear to the event.
The celebrations started at 9 am on Saturday morning, or so we were told. We had been instructed to meet at the office but when we arrived no one was there. The new time was now 10 am and we were to meet near the basket ball courts. The morning kicked off with a bunch of honored guests giving speeches to the crowd, in Chinese of course so we had no idea what was said. We could only tell when the speaker was very excited by their body
language and tone of voice. There were legitimate camera crews filming the crowd and all the honored guests, which even included a large camera boom. Local television personalities were the MCs of the event. Although it was only a 75 minute event it felt much longer as we didn’t really understand a word that they were saying. The highlight was when then released a bunch of pigeons and balloons while simultaneously blasting a bunch of confetti and fireworks.
The lunch that was highly anticipated by Elyse and I was actually in the school cafeteria. Nothing new, same old lukewarm meat type product and mushy vegetables, the only difference was that we saved 7 RMB as it was free with our coupon we were given. We went home and made lunch. At least later that night we would be treated to a real dinner at a hotel. Well we were mistaken there as well, since the dinner consisted of another free trip to the cafeteria. We stayed at home and made nachos instead.
The evening celebrations started at 6pm with all the teachers lining up by department near the basketball courts. All the lights were flashing on the stage
and many of the students and guests were already in place waving glow sticks in the air. They were playing music and cheering as the MC announced each department. We were very special be the foreign teachers since we got to follow our department leaders. There is only one other foreign teacher on campus who wasn’t at the event and we still haven’t met to this day. It felt like we were in a movie premiere in Hollywood as we walked the red carpet and were cheered on by the crowd. Before we walked out Adam reminded us that we must smile, I think that is a given but you can tell us anyways.
We enjoyed 90 minutes of entertainment from students, staff and hired performers. One group was from Africa who performed drums at the EXPO in Shanghai, it was quite impressive and I think they probably felt like us “all eyes on you since you are the obvious foreigner” Growing up in the USA you can’t decipher between a citizen and a foreigner but in this homogenous society foreigners definitely stand out. Ms Wu, Foreign Affairs Contact, sang a song with 2 other staff members and blew
us away. We had no idea that she could sing like that, but then again KTV is VERY popular in China and I think all Chinese LOVE to sing. (KTV is karaoke)
After all the performances and fireworks were over at 8:30pm the party was over. Elyse asked one of the teachers “Where is the after party?” they looked at her like she was crazy. We decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to buy beer at the store on campus as all the students were in there buying things, so we bought coke to mix with our Filipino rum that we brought back from the our honeymoon. Come on it was Saturday night and our school just had the biggest party ever in school history. We have heard numbers that the school spent 1,500,000RMB=$220,588 for the one day celebration. We are glad we got to take party is such a historic celebration for our school.
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