Broadcast Exercise Competition (广播体操比赛)
A few weeks ago my afternoon class was cancelled – over half my students would instead take part in the “Broadcast Exercise Competition.” I had no idea what that was so I walked over with the remaining kids to the stadium to watch the spectacle.
This was a competition for the freshmen only, in which the choreography is literally just stretching. In unison, the students bend and reach their toes, swing their bodies side to side, and lift their knees up to their chests. Every team is required to use the same song – it’s a very communist propaganda sounding piece, with uplifting horns and flutes and reminds me of theme songs from Pokemon Stadium and Zelda, if CCTV were to mash those tunes together to use before announcing some dramatic, breaking news headlines.
We also happen to hear this tune on the loudspeakers EVERY MORNING, five days a week at 9:55AM, when the first period is over and students walk to their second class. The lyrics are also limited to counting:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8!
2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8!
3, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8!
And so on (up to 8, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8!), for several minutes to different tempos. (double time!!)
So now there is a two hour contest with hundreds of 18 year-old teenagers do the exact same choreography, something they could have memorized in kindergarten. Part of me is thinking this is really dumb and reinforces all these negative stereotypes about Chinese youth and their propensity to conforming to others/ lack creative thought, but then part of me is just grateful that afternoon class was cancelled.
From the back row of the bleachers, my students and I still have our fun. We give ridiculous nicknames to each team. Above is a photo of Team Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes 番茄炒鸡蛋
Here is Team Egg Whites: 蛋白 in all their yolk-less glory
And my students in the English Department- ready to be served with a steak and potatoes – Team Carrots and Peas (萝卜豆苗)!!
The next day I ask my kids how they did. They laugh.
“Second to Last Place!”
Our Wednesday nights have been busy- there are a variety of English-based contest requiring the expertise that only Peace Corps volunteers can provide. Some evenings are more successful and enjoyable than others. You can see with the speech contest that the students were given a wide range of intellectually stimulating topics to cover:
- My Vision of Beautiful China
- Big, Big World and Big China
- China in my Eyes
- China on the Rise
- China in my own Eyes
- China – a new face in the world
- The magical China
There is no room for debate- the communist party is doing an excellent job and we are all fortunate to be sharing in the success of the Chinese Dream!!! To think otherwise makes you an ungrateful, Japanese-loving, delusional self-loathing piece of garbage!!!
Judging the speech contest is a chance for me to practice “Miss Universe Face”- sit with good posture, smile politely, and clap robotically for 90 minutes. I also am required to ask follow up questions for each contestant:
“How has China’s growth improved your daily life?”
“In Beijing we had Olympics and now One Belt One Road… and China is strong, yes, and the Shanghai Expo in 2010 with many visitors from around the world… and the economy with China, and then political, yes -”
“Okay great! Thank You!!”
English Drama and Stage Play
On the other hand, the English drama/ stage play (话剧) competition is much more enjoyable and relaxed. The kids seem genuinely interested in putting together something funny and creative, and instead of working off pre-selected topics glorifying the leadership of China, they get to choose their own stories to portray.
The students come prepared with a set of costumes and props. I’m always surprised when my seemingly timid and shy students can stand in front of 100 people and deliver a hilarious skit, behind the anonymity of a fairy tale character, or physical mask.
Highlights included Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, the Emperor’s New Clothes, Little Red Riding Hood, and the a scene involving the Monkey King.
One phrase commonly repeated throughout the night in various dramas: “I WILL KILL YOU!” I think everyone is secretly drawn to violence– its human nature to love bloodshed, and now the kids have their chance to dabble in a bit of imaginary murder.
To celebrate Thanksgiving, my sitemate Michelle and I took the opportunity to invite a group of sophomores to come and cook for us. They got a roast chicken, made “coca-cola wings” and an assortment of dumplings (everyone makes / wraps dumplings differently – like fingerprints or snowflakes – truly unique). Michelle did the mashed potatoes and corn, and I put together some semblance of string beans and quinoa.
Everything was delicious, to varying degrees, and the wings and potatoes were easily finished by the end of dinner. The quinoa not so much, and the string beans even less so, so I have a lot of work to do before the next Thanksgiving!
Michelle also made a killer dessert pudding made of purple yam (called ube), and we had a blueberry cheesecake from Breadtalk.
Overall I have a ton to be grateful for in 2017- too many people, things, and events to list out… Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!