Wednesday, December 24, 2008


By Ruth

I have been doing far too much public singing lately. It’s not because I sing so well, but rather because I am a famous superstar. I am a famous superstar because I have a white face. Students I have never seen before greet me by name. People invite themselves over to my house. Random strangers want to take pictures with me. I run interference on my phone calls (shh, don’t tell). And I sing in public.

On Friday, I was on the school radio program, the one that blasts through the loudspeakers at 6am, 12pm, and 6pm every day. Two of my students help with the “English Garden” broadcast and they wanted to interview me about Christmas. They asked me lots of questions and then gave information about Christmas. When I didn’t understand what they were saying, I just smiled and said, “uh-huh.” Like when one student talked about hanging presents on the tree or the other one said that children put pillowcases by the fireplace hoping they will get more candy. I figured that nobody could really understand what was being said anyway, so it didn’t matter too much.

I did not smile and nod, however, when my student tried to invite the whole campus over to our apartment on Christmas day. When she found out we would still be here at Christmas she said, “Oh, this is a good opportunity to celebrate with your students! Just tell us the place and time and we will come to your apartment!” I gave one of those fake laughs and said, “I don’t think everyone could fit in my apartment.” When she kept pressing, I stopped fake laughing and started giving her menacing looks, which she failed to notice.

At the end of the program, she asked me to sing a song. I sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (while other music was playing in the background). I didn’t mind so much because, once again, I figured nobody could really understand what was going on. When I got back, Kevin said he had understood about two words of the whole thing.

Monday night, however, everyone heard the singing as we were on stage with full volume microphones and a crowd of people before us. It was the English Department Christmas performance, and it was a big deal. Students have been auditioning and practicing for weeks, and they even told us about it weeks in advance. They had marked us down for a performance before we even agreed to it.

The stairway leading up to the third floor auditorium were decorated with ribbons and bows. Students were lined up on either side of the door like ushers, some of them my students wearing suits! They looked so cute. As we walked in, the room was already full and everyone started clapping as we made our way down the aisle because we are superstars. We were midway through the performance, right in the middle of half a dozen singers, a few humorous skits, and several belly-dancers. You know, traditional Christmas. Some of my students did a Romeo and Juliette type skit and even though I couldn’t understand the Chinese, it was really funny. Another student did one of the belly-dances, and I have to say, she was really quite talented.

My hope was that by the time our turn came, everyone would already be deafened by painfully loud speakers. Our seats of honor were of course directly in front of the speakers, and I kept my finger over my ear the whole performance to keep anything in there from bursting. The speakers were so loud and piercing that the balloons decorating the stage kept popping throughout the performance.

When we paraded on stage, everyone cheered at the sight of us. This was good, since really the sight of our white, foreign faces was the most important part of our involvement. We sang a Christmas medley in English and Chinese, and I think we sounded pretty bad. Our music started but then messed up, which was quite a bummer. We were counting on the music to help drowned us out. It was a little painful, but nobody pays a lot of attention anyway. Santa came slinking out several times to distract people as well. (He definitely did about creepy Santa). At the end, we allowed ourselves to be mobbed for pictures before heading back home. That's where those security guards in dark glasses ushering you to your limo would come in handy.

Oh yes, and yesterday we led students in singing Christmas Carols in front of the teaching building. Only about 50 came because it was freezing, freezing cold. This time, singing in public wasn’t really bad. The students didn’t sound so great themselves (but then, they were singing songs they had just learned), but they were very enthusiastic. I’m hoping this ends my public singing spree. One week more and we’re out of here. After I have all 140 of my students over to visit next week. Such is the life of a superstar.

1 comment:

Adam said...

i want to witness all of this. so good news: next time I see you, you are reenacting this, song for song.