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Published: January 21st 2010
CHAPTER 19-SHANGYU AND STUDENTS
My time teaching at Shangyu is coming to an end. It has been a hard time for me with the two apartments in the two cities and one of the worst winters here in years. Also being sick with minor complaints a lot of the time has no helped either. I have not seen any other places this time, except Hangzhou and since China is still very cold (even in Southern China!) I have decided to head further south for a short warmer holiday in Laos and Central Vietnam for a month before heading home to Australia.
Even though I have not had a good time here since arriving, the people here have been great; the other teachers have been helpful and the students willing to learn and friendly, (even when I give some of them a hard time). I will remember Shangyu just for that alone, so this chapter is dedicated to the City and Students of Shangyu. There are also several informal class photos of students. It was a bit rushed at the end, so I do not have photos of all the classes. Sorry about that.
Also included is my unexpected Christmas experience.
SHANGYU- hidden waterway
vegetable gardens growing on steps
A VERY CHINESE CHRISTMAS
I spent Christmas at my ‘weekend mansion’ in Shaoxing, so as I could meet other Foreign Teachers and make up for the boredom of the last 4 months. It was different.
I went out on the Christmas Eve night to a Korean restaurant with other American, Australian, Turkish and Chinese teachers. Korean food is still ‘not my favorite’, but it did take me back to the good times I had teaching there the year before. All the foreign guys here very tall and named ‘John’ which made remembering names easier. The low tables did give me more problems (again) with my knees the next day though.
After the restaurant, we went next door to the “Nine One” Club. The security was over the top. It looked like that which you see at airports with electronic gates and hand held metal detectors. Inside was a Christmas theme (of course) with fake snow on the floor, which was actually salt. The ceiling had massive wall-to-wall chandeliers. It is amazing how so many lights can give out so little light.. Maybe the music, “turned up to 11”, was sucking up all the juice. The staff where
all dressed in Santa Clause outfits, with more security guards inside. These guards, although seeming unarmed, all looked like S.W.A.T. riot police out of a Hollywood movie. So the place was about one third customers; one third Santa Clauses and one third heavy-duty Pseudo-police. The place was very weird; sort of ‘Monty Python’ meets ‘Star Wars’. We all walked in; did a full circle of the place and walked right out again.
Our Chinese friends took us to another nightclub, with an Arabic sounding name, somewhere on the edge of town for some ‘karaoke’ (oh no!). This place was a little more ‘customer friendly’ but still with the same ‘dim-light chandelier’ setup. The karaoke room upstairs had its own music system, with anything from Asian Pop, ‘black and white’ clips of the Bee Gees to Michael Jackson; A great range of music also “turned up to 11”. Unfortunately, the music from the main part of the nightclub was “turned up to 12” so it was hard to focus on any one song. I might have ‘had a go’ otherwise (NOT). It was an early Christmas night for some of us.
I did not escape the singing (and dancing)
on the following night however. On my way to the Korean restaurant, I got lost (again) and when I asked for directions, I got offered a job for the Christmas Night to play SANTA CLAUSE at a private school. They were desperate, because their other Foreign Teacher Santa Clause wanted to go to a party in Shanghai.
They assured me there was not much involved; just handing out presents to kids and playing games. It all sounded a bit vague and confusing but it did make me curious as to how I would handle it. It also paid over $A60 for two hours work. How hard could it be?… (famous last words)
The next night I arrived and was ‘fitted’ into my red and white costume (ie the larger of the 2 costumes was put over to top of all my winter cloths, including large coat as the school was not heated.) I looked like a very shabby Santa Clause with my huge green winter coat sticking out thru the Santa outfit.
It was a private night school for rich kids whose parents wanted their pre-teen kids to get ahead. Some parents were there also and seemed more interested in
me than the kids did. A lot of the parents seemed to have come from a poor background, could not speak any English and may have been ‘first-generation-rich’. There also seemed to be more ‘potentially overweight’ kids at this school.
My ‘boss’ told me that I was there mainly for the parents’ sake, as they wanted to see a foreigner teaching their kids, as they pay a lot of money. So, not only was I entertainer for the evening, but I also had to give lessons while being jolly!
When the evening started, I still did not know what I was supposed to be doing. I was given sheets of small ‘apple’ stickers and told to put one on the forehead of any kid that spoke English to me. I was then lead into the main room….
This small room was full of kids and some parents. The movie “Home Alone” was playing on a huge video screen and “Jingle Bells” was playing on a continuous loop. I was immediately mobbed and backed up to a wall by dozens of kids screaming, wanting to be anointed by an apple sticker, (which are very difficult to peel off one at a
time). Where’s those riot police when you need them. Welcome to Christmas, Chinese style!!
My boss told me I was expected to ‘sing a song’. What do you mean “sing a song?”, I say. He said he would ‘teach me’. So he proceeded to ‘teach me’ then-and there, over the top of the “Jingle Bells” playing on the continuous loop. (Yeah, right! That’ll work). Luckily he managed to do most of this with the kids with me ‘accompanying’.
My boss told me I was also expected me to ‘dance’. “What do you mean ‘Dance’?” (Now I begin to wonder what other surprises he has installed for me.) I had to get him to show me ‘the dance’. This was not easy, due to the bad knee from sitting at the Korean restaurant, the night before. In the end I was leading a conga-line; half skipping and half limping, like a wounded kangaroo, waiting for the final bullet
By now the room very hot in spite of no heating and snow outside, and after about an hour of peeling stickers, giving out small prizes when they say something in English, singing and dancing, my boss has one final
surprise for me.
I had to ‘test and give a score out of 10’ to ALL the students, one by one. I must have had the “Hello, what is your name? / I am fine thank you” conversation with close to 100 students !!
This took so long that they bought in another Santa to give out all the toys! So, while I was doing all the hard and boring stuff, he was having all the fun and he wasn’t even the real Santa!
That was not fun, especially after almost three hours of “Jingle Bells” none stop! Next time I would do it differently. By the end of the night, I was exhausted as can be seen in some of the photos. One day, maybe I’ll look back on all this and laugh.
Ho, ho bloody ho indeed!
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