Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In which the myth of the reserved Chinese student is dispelled dramatically..

When we went to plan the evening activities for this English Culture and Language program, the university we worked with went ahead and sent us some suggested activities. One was listed as a "Candlelight dinner". We were puzzled.... we were to have a romantic outing? It turns out they meant a Birthday dinner, and by 'candlelight' they meant birthday candles. They wanted to put on an American-style birthday celebration.

The University representatives decided to handle this one themselves, and I was intrigued to see just how "American" it would actually be!

On the appointed evening we all filed into the gym and sat with our small groups on the floor. One person in each group had a birthday that month, and they were called to the front and given a birthday hat and a birthday cake in a box. That's my adorable Flora there with the peace sign.

From china

We had balloons, tea lights, cake, and soft drinks. My group had even invited in the brand-new boyfriend of one of my girls. They'd been dating under a week at this point. I asked Anna what his major was and she said she didn't know, she didn't think it was important. Hah! Priorities.

From china

We lit the candles (which looked nothing like American candles but hey... same concept) and then they put on a recorded version of Happy Birthday and everyone sang along enthusiastically. Except... it went on... and on... and on. It probably played 20 times and everyone kept singing. I was like, we have to blow out the candles and eat! And my girls were like, no, we must keep singing! I don't think they realize we only sing it once:

From china

At this point it was all pretty American, though. We served up the cake and pop and passed it around:
From china

And then .... our birthday girl's best friend reached over and smeared a little frosting in her face. Flora yelped and smeared a little back. This spread to the next girl...

From china

I thought it was just them having fun and being cute, but suddenly the place ERUPTED. I mean... around us it turned out that in every group someone was smearing someone with frosting, and the little dots turned into big smears, and once someone was smeared they'd go smear someone else. The gym turned into mass chaos. Everyone was running with frosting filling their hands, attempting to either run from someone or nab the cute boy/girl they had their eye on or someone that hadn't yet been effectively smeared. MASS CHAOS.


From china

As you can see, I was entirely confused at first.

From china

But then gave into the madness:

From china

Just as the massive frosting fight was winding down, someone put on a tape of the Bunny Hop, and a group of our gang from America started dancing in the middle of the gym. In 10 minutes they were followed but just about ALL of our 150 students and the gym was just a long line of dancing, frosting covered Chinese students and a few bedraggled Americans.

From china

From china

It was one of those totally surreal and wonderful nights that can't be duplicated. They asked me if this is what birthday parties in America were like and I said most certainly not. I asked them if the frosting fight is common in China and they said no... I wonder if maybe they are mixing up our birthday celebrations with the cake-smearing that sometimes goes on at weddings?

In any case, I told my students that I'd always been told that Chinese students were reserved and upstanding, and that I would never believe that myth again. :)

From china

2 comments:

Jaimie said...

Hahaha, I love how they kept singing Happy Birthday. And to a soundtrack! You can't make that stuff up.

Rae said...

Sounds like hilarious fun.