After my bout of Christmas food poisoning, I started to feel a little better on Monday, so I taught my afternoon classes. While my voice was still pretty much gone, I was at least able to show the first third of Elf, which the students really enjoyed! In the afternoon, I stopped by the office to grab my students’ final exam scripts (I’m making them perform a skit) that they wrote as homework. Immediately, I found myself surrounded by the teachers. “We will do a pull and tug competition. Will you join us??”. I told them I was still feeling pretty weak, but that I would come watch. All of the teachers headed downstairs and outside to the parking lot. We all watched the male teachers battle it out in four groups. Even the principal participated, which I thought was funny.
When it was the women’s turn, I was accosted by a large group of teaches. Apparently one of the teachers on team four was sick and they needed me to participate. I had eaten pretty much nothing for five days, and I was wearing high-heeled boots for our faculty picture, which we had taken earlier that day, but they still forced me to participate. One of the other teachers switched shoes with me, and they stuck me in the front of the line.
Chinese people play tug of war a little differently then we do. They start in a very low, squatted position, and use their body weight to pull backwards. I started in a medium squat and was told by at least eight people that I needed to start lower. But in my opinion, it’s better to start a little higher and then use all of your momentum from your arms and legs to pull backwards into a lower position. Whatever it was, my strategy worked and it was almost too easy for my team to win. All I had to do was pull really hard and within 30 seconds we beat the other teams. We played four rounds in total, each lasting less than a minute. I was congratulated by almost everyone, and the other teams complained that it wasn’t fair, because I was obviously the most athletic person in the competition. There were 16 people on each team, but I may as well have counted for five people… at least. The winners all got prizes which included laundry detergent, toothpaste, hand lotion and small towels. I’m not even halfway through my first thing of laundry detergent, so I sense that it will be gifted to the next foreign teacher.
That night, I met with my Speech and Acting students to practice for their performance. My voice was still gone, so I had to use a microphone to speak to my rowdy students. My class and I decided that we would start off singing to traditional Jingle Bells music, and then we would randomly switch to a catchy, techno version we found on some Chinese music website. I told them that if we did the techno version, we would obviously have to dance. This did not go over well. Most of the students were excited about the upbeat music, but could not do any of the simple dance moves I suggested. It was pitiful. Eventually we decided on the boys waving scarves in the air in a fist pump maneuver, while the girls ran around them in a circle. Then the girls would do a “dosey-do” where they linked arms and skipped in a circle. We practiced for about an hour straight until it was acceptable.
The next day, I skipped my classes at the primary school in the morning because I still had no voice and I was absolutely exhausted from the day before. Around noon, it was time for the New Years performance to start. I arrived just as the talent show was starting, and was given a stool near the front. I was handed a brochure and that’s when I saw my name.
“What is this? I told you guys I lost my voice and can’t sing!” I exclaimed to Lora.
“We think you should have a try”, she said. “The students are very excited to hear you sing.”
“But I physically can’t sing.” I said, “When I try to sing, no sounds come out. I sound like a dying bird”.
No matter how much I tried to convince the other teachers, they didn’t believe me. I had been chugging warm water all day in the hopes that my voice would come back, but as of that morning, I still couldn’t sing.
“Okay give me a minute. Let me try to see how it sounds and I’ll tell you if I can do it or not. If I can’t, I’ll go onstage and dance with my students.”
I ran out of the crowd and into the hallway of the teachers building. I hid myself behind a stairwell and attempted to sing my song “Winter Wonderland”. The low notes were okay, but a few of the higher notes were definitely strained. Since I have a higher-pitched voice, normally the high notes are pretty easy for me, but at that moment I felt like one of those raspy singers that can only sing at low octaves. I decided to give it a go, even though my singing voice was nowhere near what I would deem acceptable for me to get up and sing in front of the entire school.
Soon it was time for my Speech and Acting students to perform. Due to the urging of my students, I finally agreed to get onstage and dance with them during the techno Jingle Bells, so I patiently waited on the side of the stage. The students started their song, and to be honest, no one was really paying attention, but when techno Jingle Bells started and I ran onstage, the crowd went WILD. The students screamed “WHOAH!!!!” and whipped out their cameras. What can I say? I’m always down for a dance performance.
After I ran offstage, I took a second to calm my breath and take a few sips of water before I had to sing. Oh man… I would be lying if I said I wasn’t freaking out about my half-lost voice. When I walked back on stage the crowd went wild, and all of the teachers had their phones out to record my song. Oh Jeez! I started singing and it was.. okay. I had the raspy thing going for me, but the higher notes were pretty strained. Thank god I had decided not to use music, because I was able to sing my song a half-octave lower than normal. After I finished, the students burst into applause and cheered as I walked off stage.
Afterwards everyone congratulated me on my beautiful song. “Well… If you say so”, I thought. Personally, if they liked my singing they probably have pretty low standards. I really wished my voice had returned though, because then my song may have been decent. Well.. there’s always next time, and knowing my school there will be a next time.
As a “thank you” for singing, the school gave me two giant bottles of olive oil. I’m excited to try them out once I finish off my giant container of Chinese cooking oil! Maybe the olive oil will be bit healthier.
One interesting thing I noticed about the talent show, was that it was almost entirely singing performances. There was one or two musical instrument performances, but the stars were all singers. The only exception was our school’s Gymnastics Team (which should be called the dance team), who are an award-winning group. The school is even building a dance studio on our campus for them to practice! Apparently their coach went to the PE college in Beijing, which is apparently a huge deal. They told me that maybe I can do a ballroom dance performance with him at the end of the year talent show. We’ll see how that goes. They’ll probably just make me sing again.
After the talent show, I hopped on the bus and headed down to the city to grab dinner and celebrate the New Year with my other AYC friends. A few of us went to a Korean restaurant and had Korean BBQ. It was my first REAL (non-packaged) meal since I got sick, so I was really excited. I’m sure all of the pork was much-needed protein for me. After dinner we headed to Laowaitan to find a bar and celebrate the New Year. On the way, we came across a bunch of people releasing lanterns. While this is normally reserved for the Chinese New Year, a bunch of people decided to do it for the Western New Year as well.
We stopped for a minute and watched people light them, and I decided I could not waste this opportunity. I found a man selling the lanterns and bought one of myself. The idea is that the lantern represents your hopes and dreams for the new year, and you’re sending your wishes into the sky. The group of us set it up and borrowed a lighter from a friendly Chinese couple. After a few minutes it was ready, and we released it into the sky! One of my friends took a video, but I can’t figure out how to get it off of Facebook, so I’ll work on that for you all.
The lantern rose into the sky very quickly and we watched until we couldn’t see it anymore. I’m glad my hopes and dreams didn’t crash into a tree and burn up, like some of the other people’s’.
After saying goodbye to my lantern, we walked the rest of the way to Laowaitan and met up with the Beilun teachers at a new bar that had just opened the week before. It was owned by a few foreigners and it was packed with older expats. They were having a drink special, $15 for all you can drink beer and rail drinks. I was one of the only people that didn’t participate because I didn’t want to push it after my food poisoning, but I was a little sad to miss out on the red champagne they served at midnight for everyone with the drink special. At least I got a sip.
That night the Beilun teachers invited three other expats teaching English that they met living in Beilun. A part of me was very excited to meet more people, but another part of me was extremely jealous because it’s impossible to meet any expats where I live. I had a great time nonetheless, and I even stole a pink light-up bow headband for part of the night.
Overall, it was definitely necessary to have a good night after my horrible week of food poisoning. I’m really glad that I was well enough to go out and see everyone, and I even made it past midnight, which I wasn’t expecting. Finding a cab home was pretty rough though, and it was a bit awkward arriving back at my school after 2am… but the security guard was very nice about it. It’s New Years, and it’s not like I was waking anyone up since I was literally the ONLY person at the school anyway.
Next post: OFFICIALLY the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done in my life.