Sporting Events and Paper Plate Ghosts

Happy Thursday to everyone! I keep forgetting that today is a weekday; it feels more like a Saturday to me. All Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday classes have been cancelled at our school this week due to a big sports meet on campus. Tomorrow we’re going to take off on another trip to Shanghai and stay for three nights (a little longer than our last trip), but we did go and watch the opening ceremony and the first hour of the sports meet yesterday. It was a very big deal for all of the students who were involved, who have been working very hard to prepare and going to late night practices for their respective sporting events. The opening ceremony was done Olympic-style, with each academic major at the school dressing in a costume symbolic of their trade (for example, there was a group that marched all sporting orange construction hats, another group carrying oversized paintbrushes and artists’ palettes, and a group of business majors dressed in black pencil skirts and suits with ties, etc.) and marching once around the track before standing on the center field. There were girls wearing traditional Chinese dresses and carrying banners, a group similar to ROTC all wearing army fatigues and waving flags while chanting, a performance of people skilled in the art of Tai Chi, and of course, the playing of the Chinese national anthem. Justin and I wondered if there would be fireworks, but instead, they popped open crackers that let out a showering of confetti all over the track (which, much to our amusement, the cleaning staff standing off to the side of the field came running to sweep into their dustpans before it even had a chance to settle to the ground). We also found the Chinese cheerleaders to be pretty amusing. Their dance routine was not quite up to par with many of the American cheerleaders that I’ve seen, but that wasn’t the funny part. They had a few male cheerleaders on their squad who took a very active role in the routine. Rather than being the strong, silent types who toss the girls in the air and hold them high using just the palms of their hands as supports, these male cheerleaders were a bit flimsy-looking and weren’t really able to perform those kinds of feats. They instead wore mid-riff shirts, waved pom-poms, and did high-kicks and cheers along with the rest of the girls! We also laughed at many of the athletes (mostly girls) who were not dressed properly for their sports event (most of the sports events we saw were track and field—events like the 100 meter dash and the javelin toss). Instead of wearing running shorts and tank tops, many girls were dressed in skinny jeans and converse sneakers, complete with bulky sweaters and fashion sunglasses. Their friends would wait for them with open arms, dangerously close to the finish line, so that as the girls finished the race they would literally run right into the arms of their best friend, ready to hug and congratulate them on their good time (or in some cases, encourage them and tell them not to worry about coming in last place). During one of the races, we saw a girl take a bad fall when she was less than halfway to the finish line. She was so ashamed; she just kind of crawled over to the sidelines instead of finishing the race. We saw her friend run over to her and take her hand to help her up. Her friend put her arm around her and walked her off the field, whispering words of comfort in her ear. It’s very sweet, the camaraderie that these Chinese girls share; they all seem very close and sisterly to one another. The boys, of course, took their races much more seriously. They were all decked out in proper running attire and many of them seemed to be very upset with themselves for coming in second and third place. People cheered loudly on the sidelines for the boys, but no one waited at the finish line to hug the runners completing their races. It was a very different atmosphere for the boys’ events. We only watched a few of the boys’ races before leaving the track and field to go find some lunch.

Earlier this week, before the sports meet began, Justin and I had the opportunity to do a Halloween lesson with our classes. It was more difficult than I thought it would be, trying to explain the concept of Halloween to a group of people who had never heard anything about it before (using the simplest English phrases possible). I created a PowerPoint using a lot of pictures. I focused very little on the history of Halloween, since it is a bit of a mystery to me and to most people who celebrate it, I’m assuming. I focused mainly on present day Halloween, and showed pictures of children trick-or-treating and explained the process to them. My students all yelled a collective, “Wow!” (which, in Chinese, sounds more like, “Wah!”) when I told them that some children collect giant sacks, even pillowcases, full to the brim with candy. I showed them pictures of babies and dogs in costume, which the girls all found to be very cute. I showed them pictures of adults throwing Halloween parties, all dressed in costume, and people sitting at home and in movie theaters watching scary movies. I even showed them a movie poster from the film Scream and summarized the plot for them in simple English. Basically, I said, “A girl answers the telephone.” (Here I mimed holding a phone to my ear.) “Hello?” I said, in a sweet sounding voice. Then I told the class, “A man talks into the phone.” (Here I turned my body to the side and held the “phone” to my other ear, and spoke with a deep man’s voice.) “I am watching you,” I said, using the universal, two-fingered sign to indicate watching. The girls all jumped in their chairs and shivered with fear, seeming to understand how frightening the movie is. I was very proud of my performance.

I also showed my students a photographic demonstration of how to carve a pumpkin, and they really seemed impressed with the pictures of the Jack-O-Lanterns all aglow. I told them some simple Halloween jokes (“What do you call a witch who lives at the beach? A sand-witch!”) and had them do a Halloween arts-and-crafts project in which they created paper plate ghosts. While the students worked, I played Halloween music such as “Purple People Eater” and “Ghostbuster’s Theme.”  Little did I know how difficult it would be to find a full-sized paper dinner plate in China! The best I could do was semi-transparent plastic appetizer-sized plates, and we had to use tissues instead of streamers. However, I think the results were still pretty cute, and I’ll try to include a couple of pictures below. I also passed out candy to everyone, and we watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on the projector screen. The students all really seemed to enjoy it. I plan on doing lessons teaching the students about Thanksgiving and Christmas as well, later on this semester. I’m hoping to show them the Peanuts Christmas Special in December (if I can find a version with Chinese subtitles), in which Linus tells the story of the true meaning of Christmas. Because I’ve set a precedent now of spending equal time teaching about each holiday, and because I’ve shown a Peanuts holiday special once already, hopefully it won’t raise any eyebrows. We’ll see what happens… Happy Halloween, everyone! I will really miss seeing the trick-or-treaters this year!

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