After a memorable morning, the assembled teachers from Nanjing congregated and entered the auditorium at the Changzhou Foreign Language School, the major feeder school to the college and the reason we’d been dragged here on a gods-early Saturday morning.
Seated front and center were a half-dozen teachers assigned the dubious distinction of judging the English competition. Without a great deal of information we took our seats of honour and smiled and nodded to the crowd behind as as well as the majority of the school watching on monitors in their classrooms.
It was a three part competition, an introductory speech, a short (overly rehearsed) speech on A New Dream or Experience (it happened in May) and then a debate between the six competitors based on if it is better to study in China or abroad.
The first student introduced himself with an accent I can only assume he discovered via watching badly dubbed American sports highlights with an intoxicated Howard Cosell because his English voice did not originate on this plant and his first line was, “Hello, I am a sunshine boy…” What’s a sunshine boy? Well, for one it proves this kid has yet to have a native English speaker teach him English, but this is what Chinese teachers things conveys they fact their students are outgoing and friendly… and probably gay…. because sometimes gay means happy.
The six introductions are bland, and it’s not until they get to their over-rehearsed speeches that things pick up. We are all half-listening, only to remember partway through the six judges need to ask questions to the students to see if they can take think on their feet and add a new level to their understanding. Most can’t, but all give valid attempts.
Then comes the girl who won the whole shebang as she gave a speech about the responsibility of looking after her pet puppy. It is cute and forgettable until she then mentions… “I came home from school and the puppy and pooped all over the kitchen! Mom was furious,” which earned titters of amusement from the English teachers which was topped moments later by, “There was shit all over the place, I kept stepping in shit, this dog shit EVERYWHERE!” With each successive shit, she earned bonus points as the audience howled with laughter. None harder than the group of teachers up from Nanjing.
The debate might as well have been a forgone conclusion, although the twitchy, intense kid really made a valiant rally to try to pip the shit-talker at the post. It seemed like this too was rehearsed to me, others thought it was a (semi-)authentic debate, but this one fervent, tic’y kid kept going off script and catching the other students in mistakes. It was brilliant!
With the points tallied, the girl with the story of the dog with diarrhea ended up winning, proving that poop jokes are funny the world over.
The intermission saw us venture outside for some fresh air and upon returning found an orchestra set up, making the first row unusable. I offered to help the kid playing the violin during the recital and he looked at me with a queer looking saying, ‘I know you’re a foreigner and a teacher but… please no.’ And I can’t say I blame him, with the audience rearranged to give the musicians some space, this kid turned out to be a virtuoso and the first violin. Between him and the first cello music the likes of which I haven’t heard in ages reverberated through that northern music hall as we all just sat back and listened.
That was followed up with the oddest girl group ever, as four looked adorable in complimentary dresses and the fifth looked like a starting forward for a rugby squad in jeans and a scowl.
Surreal hit the stage with a group of students ‘dubbing’ over movies clips. I anticipated a show of English abilities, as they would take a Chinese or Asian movie and give us an English translation. Nope, instead it was badly broken English dubbing… of English films. Why does China love Titanic so bloody much? It was non-dubbing at its finest. As the soundtrack played over in the background, with Chinese subtitles scrolled across the screen.
A young kid told a story… with a cut-out crow as a co-character. The told the fable of the Fox and the Crow.
He had good timing and presence and fantastic enunciation and emthasis.
The less said about the boyband rapping and breakdancing the better. Moving on.
A Chinese folk tale reacted by four friends with some girls playing the lead villain roles. Great use of props, simplistic stage fighting and over-the-top acting had everyone laughing along with Monkey and his hapless friends as the battled the seductive femme fatale!
Traditional dancing from the western China province of Xinjiang, a people with more cultural and ethnic similarities to the Middle East and Muslim than China offered up a lovely counterpoint to the heavily Sino acts seen so far. Vibrant costumes and elegant lines brought a different atmosphere to the stage.
Then it was time for the grand finale and somewhere are videos of this, but I’ll try to do it justice (briefly). Silent Night became Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (in May remember). The choir wore flashing antlers… or devil horns to get into the Christmas spirit. Rudolph showed up in costume, but in lieu of the 8 other reindeer, Santa opted for… Stitch (of Lilo and Stitch), Pikachu, a cow, a dinosaur, a unicorn, a tiger and a chipmunk. Santa proved to be a thin, teen Chinese student… and they finished it off by dancing Gangnam Style!
I… there are no words.
Now I know what a Chinese Acid Trip with Chairman Mao and Confucius along the Great Wall must be like.
And then there was a long, drunken ride back to Nanjing!