Friday was Teacher Appreciation Day in China. I was completely unaware of this fact until I walked into my first Friday class and had flowers shoved in my face. This was a welcome surprise, however, as this class had been known as my "devil class" up until the point that they gave me flowers. Although they were loud on Friday, they weren't nearly as bad as they were the week before. They were the first class to really get into the game and get competitive about their group winning.
So, we knew before hand that all of the Friday afternoon classes were cancelled for the foreign teachers, but we hadn't known why. About 15 minutes before my class on Friday morning, Mr. Dong showed up at my door. I was excited to answer, because I thought it would finally be my package from my parents.
He wanted to invite me to a Teacher's Day ceremony downtown. Of course, I said yes. I couldn't say no and offend him. He told me to be ready at 2 PM. No big deal. Then, I asked if I should tell the other girls to be ready. Turns out, he was only asking me. He said no, he only had one ticket.
Okay, that seemed a little weird. It still does. I don't really know why I was the only one that he chose to speak and to go to this ceremony thing.
Needless to say, I wasn't exactly thrilled about spending two hours of my Friday afternoon in downtown Shijiazhuang with Mr. Dong and a bunch of teachers who don't speak English. I was pleasantly surprised with the show, though.
We took a taxi downtown and ended up at the Hebei Arts Museum. I guess it wasn't just a ceremony; it was a full-on theater show that included a ton of teachers throughout the province. It was really neat. The beginning was just a panel of government people talking about how important teaching is.
Then, the show really began. The next hour and a half was a combination that can only be described as: glorified dance recital/singing competition/party manifesto.
There were kids of all ages performing - from about 3 years old up to teenagers. Some of them sang, while the other dances. In between each act, they showed a video about teachers from different schools. It was really neat. Then, it started to get weird.
There was a band that came out to play some music. If I had to guess, I'd say the oldest child in the band was about 11 or 12 years old. They played very well, though. So, they played one song that had some video in the background about teachers. Nothing unexpected. Next, though, they started to play this old war song. Projected on the big screen was a video of Chinese soldiers killing Japanese ones. I know this because Mr. Dong leaned over and said, "This is the story of the Chinese fighting Japan!" He punctuated each word by hitting his fist against him palm. Cool. Apparently, that was the hand signal the song inspired in everyone around me. Awkward.
After the song, they took the band off the stage and more dancers came out. We got a little bit of a breather.
Okay, so does everyone remember the book about the Tiger Mother and all the controversy around it? It was the mom who basically ran her daughters lives like a dictator, never allowed them to have sleepovers, watch TV, etc. Basically, she was trying to say that she was the typical Chinese mother.
At the ceremony, they played this extremely creepy tribute video to this Tiger Mother, and made fun of the articles that had came out in the US that criticized her way of raising her daughters. If that wasn't creepy enough for you, the next part will be.
They brought out two teams - four boys against four girls. This was the way Mr. Dong described it to me: "There are two teams, and they are having a debate. One team is arguing for the western style of teaching; the other team is arguing for the Chinese style of teaching. The Chinese team is going to win, of course". Sweet debate, dude.
So, after this riveting "debate", there was something I like to affectionally call, "Ballroom Dancing for Mao". All of these girls came out in these flowy red dresses, with their partners in tuxedos with matching red ties. As they ballroom danced, there was a tribute video to Chairman Mao playing in the background.
Then, the ceremony was over.
The ceremony ended right around rush hour in Shijiazhuang, so I walked for about 45 minutes with Mr. Dong and Mr. Fu, trying to find a taxi. Right as it started to rain, we finally found one. We dropped Mr. Fu off at his apartment, and then Mr. Dong insisted on taking me out to dinner to thank me for coming to the ceremony. (I'm also supposed to write a few paragraphs about it for them to put on the school website).
We went to one of my favorite restaurants on Wenyuan St. to have dinner. While at dinner, we proceeded to have a very interesting conversation. During this conversation, Mr. Dong touched on the following topics:
1. Why do Americans want to kill all communism? (Yes, he said communism, not communists).
2. Some Chinese students still hate Japan, and refuse to learn Japanese from one of the other foreign teachers.
3. How "open" China is politically. Although, he was trying to argue that China is more open now than it was under Mao. Okay, sure, I'll give you that. But, um, you're not going to convince me that China is more open politically than the US.
4. How he disagrees with the US style of teaching and parenting because kids are never "forced to do anything".
And many other uncomfortable topics.
These kind of put me in an unusual position, because I was trying to balance my desire to debate him on certain things with my need to not offend him.