My whirlwind first week back at school was over quicker than I anticipated, and all of a sudden it was our second week. Anya, yet another new teacher had arrived and we knew that we had a day off at the end of the week. And Tuesday was Teacher’s Day. I didn’t know anything more than this but I thought Teacher’s Day would be interesting, you know, seeing as I’m a teacher and all. Hannah told us we would have a dinner in the evening.
So we came in in the morning of Teacher’s Day, the same as usual. We go through our usual routine, and when the kids start coming in, they are carrying bunches of flowers and so on. This was cute. what was cuter was when they started giving them to us, and saying “Happy Teacher’s Day.” This continued throughout the day, except that it wasn’t only flowers. There were also chocolates (yum) and inappropriate George got me Hello Kitty soap. Is he trying to tell me something? And the notes that came with the flowers were all very cute as well. Ridiculously so, in fact.
In the evening, there was a dinner in our honour, where we were told we could go home early and pretty ourselves up, as we would be eating dinner and then performing for the other teachers there. Any excuse to show off their performing monkeys. I wore the same dress as at the wedding because I’m nothing if not frugal and that dress is too pretty to only wear once, although this time, I forewent the Spanx. I wanted to be able to move for my dance, as it was pretty active. We were also thoroughly coached on how to say Happy Teacher’s Day in Chinese, which we only learned because we broke it down into syllables that we could remember. The fun thing is that as I’m writing this piece, almost two months later, I have independently learned the word for happy and I know the word for teacher and while happy is in there, teacher is not. And I absolutely cannot remember the phrase. I learned it for long enough to pronounce it on the stage, and then promptly forgot it. As I do with most of the Chinese I learn. Some of it is sinking in, but not very quickly. Although apparently Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn, even if that is mostly the writing aspect of it.
Language tangent aside, we ended up being bored out of our minds, as some bloke we didn’t know decided to give an hour-long lecture, without any props and because we don’t understand Chinese, we couldn’t even count his tics. Not that anyone cared that we all ended up on our phones, as even half the Chinese teachers were on their phones. And we hadn’t even been fed properly yet. We were fed at the precise moment when we were called to perform, of course.
We danced to “I like to move it.” We’d practised for all of twenty minutes the week before, with about ten minutes practice that afternoon, to make sure we hadn’t forgotten it. The thing is, we hadn’t prepared this song for the Teacher’s Day Dinner, as we’d only been told the day before that it was happening. This was a dance that we’d found on YouTube and simplified so the kids could dance to it for their morning exercise. That was it. It was an incredibly easy dance to a catchy song. Pro-tip: it would seem that Chinese people like that sort of thing, as they all clapped and cheered for us in a way that they did not for the other teacher’s who did a beautiful and complicated dance using fans and umbrellas that they’d been practising for days. But what really took the roof off? Us stumbling through the Chinese that we’d been coaxed to learn earlier that day. All the teachers loved it, and we were able to bask in the adulation for the thirty seconds it went on. And suddenly always making friends on the Metro when I’m doing my Chinese lessons makes sense. They appreciate that I’m trying. In this far flung part of the world, where English is finding its way in, and becoming universal here as well, where parents spend a fortune on their two-year-olds learning English because they can see it’s a solid financial investment, people see you trying to integrate into their way of life and they appreciate it.
The rest of the week was the new normal of far too many lessons to teach, but we were getting used to it. And then for the Moon Festival, we had the Friday off. On Thursday afternoon, my KB3 class had a moon feast that primarily consisted of fruit and Moon Cakes. It’s worth trying a moon cake, just to say that you’ve had it, you’ve tried it. Kind of like everything else I’ve tried in China. But I wouldn’t have it if I could choose it. In fact, despite being given several as a gift on Teacher’s Day, they ended up in the bin. They are, an acquired taste, I believe, given how much the Chinese seem to like them. The kids kept trying to give me more moon cake. And all I wanted was grapes and a yoghurt. I couldn’t even have the yoghurt as there weren’t enough to go around the kids, and they always have priority.
They also all wore their traditional clothing, in one form or another. Which was adorable. Tiny people in traditional costume is never not crazy cute.
Anyway, because we had the day off on Friday, we decided to visit Window of the World, which happens to be a theme park type place in Shenzhen that I hadn’t yet managed to visit. It was a lot of fun, meeting up with folks and visiting miniature versions of all the world’s most famous monuments, even if we were all melting like the unaccustomed-to-the-ridiculous-humidity-expats we were.
And that was it. Two holidays in one week. How spoiled we are. And don’t let us get used to this.