Monday, September 8, 2008

Singing and Dancing

By Kevin

“Man, the ... party is fierce,” Wes said with a grin as we left the karaoke bar.

We rode home, astonished at what we just took part in.

“That was just bizarre,” he repeated, as we got out of the taxi returning home. “You had 40 and 50 year old professionals, most of whom are members of the party. That was somethin' else.”

"It was fun," Christina said. "Thanks for coming with me."

Just after noon, the foreign affairs official (FAO) told us that there would be a banquet tonight.

When we got there, the dean of the English department told us, in English, that the banquet was being held in honor of teacher's day and Mid-Autumn festival, which are both coming up in the next couple weeks.

We enjoyed an array of delicious dishes and met several teachers and deans in the department, most of whom seemed genuinely excited to meet us. We learned that the dean at one point in time spent a year in Florida as part of a teacher exchange. We also discovered that one of the teachers in the department is about to go to Cuba to learn Spanish. The school hopes to begin offering Spanish classes. “But that plan might be a bit ambitious,” she confided to us after saying that “Espanol” is the only Spanish word she knew. We tripled her vocabulary, adding “hola” and “adios.”

After the banquet, we were invited for "singing and dancing" at a nearby karaoke bar.

Initially, we turned down the offer because we wanted to go downtown for ice cream and to explore the square, which Christina said is fun at night. But Christina felt a tug on her heart. “Do you think we should go?” she asked. “They've never invited us to do anything like this before. Maybe we should go. Show our solidarity...We don't have to stay long.”

By the time we got halfway across the street, we were hedging on the ice cream. By the time we made it across the street, guilt had set in. So we turned back.

“We changed our minds,” we told a couple teachers.

When we entered, the other teachers greeted us warmly and hurriedly escorted us to a table. One teacher was already singing a famous Chinese pop song. When she sat down, Wes decided to dive in, to the delight of the 20 teachers and deans who came to the afterparty. Wes sang a popular Chinese song, and several teachers gleefully sang along with him. Later, the dean asked Christina to a slow dance in the middle of the dance floor, twirling her around a couple times before the song was over.

The FAO then brought a long list of karaoke songs for Ruth and I to sing. All the pages but one were in Chinese. But the one page of English songs wasn't much help. The best prospects for Ruth and I to sing in the list of 20-plus-year-old hits seemed to be “Yesterday Once More,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Not exactly high on our list. They said we could chose something else if we wanted and they would search for it. We settled on the Titanic hit, “My Heart Will Go On,” figuring that our foreignness would outweigh my partial tonedeafness (I can hear the right notes, just can't always produce them well unless I'm singing in a group). Again, teachers sang with us and applauded loudly at the finish.

Since we'd done our duty, we made an exit plan: one or two more songs. But the dean of the department had other plans, pleading for us to stay for one more song.

As a dancing baby came onto the screen, he raised his arms to the roof to a driving dance beat and dragged us into the middle of the room. We found out why he didn't want us to leave just yet: this was a "singing AND dancing party."

Thankfully, we weren't the only ones. A dozen teachers, most in their 30s, 40s and 50s, grabbed hands and made a throbbing circle, swinging arms back and forth stepping forward and back with the beat. Before long they pulled Wes into the center, prompting him to strut his stuff, to the delight of everyone. Within the next several sweaty minutes, each of us had been pulled into the middle to spin around and shake our hips like crazy people. They did the same with the Chinese teachers. It was odd, but kinda fun.

Like Christina said, it was a good chance to bond a little both as a team and with the other teachers at the school. Maybe this will be an opening to get to know them a bit better.