Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The (Constant) Sound of Music

by Ruth

Everywhere I go these days, I hear singing. It’s not just my blissful state or unrelenting optimism (I have finally admitted that I am indeed a pessimist). There is actual singing going on every which away I turn.

We are just about a week away from China’s big 60th anniversary. Sure, this country has been around for thousands of years, but it is also 60 years old in the sense of being the People’s Republic of China. So it’s a really big deal. I would say it’s like 4th of July on steroids, but that really doesn’t begin to describe it. We just don’t do celebration on the large scale that China does.

We have been hearing about the grandiose celebrations that will be happening in Beijing. They are supposed to top the Olympics, and that was quite a presentation. There will probably be fireworks being shot off every minute of the day in every city across China. Our school is doing its part to participate as all the students are bursting with patriotic pride. And also, bursting with song.

For the past two weeks as we have walked around campus, we keep encountering groups of 30-50 students and teachers practicing songs outside various classroom buildings. Often there are several groups practicing on different parts of campus. We hear it from our apartments, in our classrooms, and everywhere we go. The first week it was mesmerizing. The second week it was interesting. Now, I'll be honest, it's getting a little tiring.

Tomorrow will be the big performance, so today the groups have been in mega-overdrive. All day long, they have been gathering to practice on the front steps of the main classroom building, this time complete with microphones, large speakers, and costumes. When I walked to class at 7:30am, hundreds of people were already congregating. My classes were carried out with the benefit of constant background music…if it can be called “background” music when you have to yell over it. When I finished with class at 4:15, hundreds of people were still gathered around while various groups loudly practiced their songs. Even during the rest period, the sacred after lunch rest period which is usually the quietest time of the day, the groups were practicing their singing. Now, at 11pm at night the speakers are still blasting out their music. It sounds like I have music going in the next room. Good thing I’ve got earplugs. Who knows when this will end.

So tomorrow will be the big performance, and I’m not quite sure what it will be like. Or rather, I’m pretty sure what it will sound like since I’ve been hearing it for weeks. But I’m not sure how long it will last. Apparently each department is performing. There are 20 departments. So I think we’re looking at hours…and hours. We were strongly encouraged to move our classes to different times because it's a big deal. I think it will be interesting. For all the practicing, they are bound to be good!

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