Tis The Season

Every year EF puts on a Christmas party and ever since I arrived in China I have heard about this Christmas party. I was told that the TAs and the CCs (sales staff) do a dance and that the students do a talent show. I was looking forward to it, especially since I have never been to a Christmas party before.

About a month or two before Christmas our boss, Kristian, told us to come up with some Christmas games. Now most of the groups of teachers aren’t religious and two of us have never even celebrated the holiday (myself and another teacher named Ben who is a Jehovah’s Witness). I didn’t know the first thing about Christmas games but I came up with the idea to have them make a snowman on a piece of paper using crumpled up tissue paper or better yet the stack of recycled paper we have sitting in the office.

The way the Christmas party was set to work, was that there was going to be a talent show by the students with activities, that we came up with, interspersed throughout the evening. In addition to the activities Sam, my old roommate, was volunteered to do a magic show. (When we were coming up with ideas for the party, Sam mentioned a magic show and we all thought it was a good idea. So Kristian told Sam that he should do it. Sam didn’t know that he could say no. So Sam, a person who has no magicians training and who gets nervous in front of big crowds, was now scheduled to perform a magic show in front of 200+ students and parents).

The party took place at the Holiday Inn, which is the nicest hotel in Qinhuangdao. They rented out the grand ballroom and decorated it in Chritmasy things. The night turned out to be a comedy of errors. First the stage was at the far end of the room as opposed to being placed in the center of the hall, so the kids sitting at the far end of the hall couldn’t see anything that was happening on stage.

The kids started trickling in and there was no real assigned seating so the kids started fighting and pushing to get a good seat or sit next to their friends.

The party started off with a conga-line with Santa in the front throwing candy to the different tables. And guess who was asked to play Santa? That’s right, the only Jew in a 200 mile radius, me. Krisitian thought it would be funny to have me, a Jew, play Santa Clause. I thought it fell into the category of trying new things so I didn’t object.

I’m not sure if I played the best Santa. I was told I wouldn’t have to say anything, but when I went up on stage Kristian asked me if I have anything to say. I couldn’t say nothing, so I said, “Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah.” Also, the hair from the beard kept getting in my mouth so I kept taking off the beard to spit out the hairs. I’m sure I traumatized some of the younger kids by them having to see Santa take off his beard.

The talent show began and there were a variety of different acts. From a little girl singing an English song, to a boy doing a Chinese rap. From girls doing Bollywood type of dances to boys doing kung-fu   demonstrations. The twins from my Small Star class did a rollerblading routine and there was this young boy who did this crazy tango/Saturday Night Fever type of dancing.

Interspersed throughout the talent show we had the kids do fun little activities. The first one was a relay race around the tables. But the tables were so tightly packed together that the kids could barely run around the tables without running into one another. We then had them do the make a snowman activity which I came up with. But instead of using all of that recycled paper we have sitting in the office they only took a little bit of it. So there was only about one sheet per student to tear up and make a snowman with. It turned out to be a total disaster.

I was shocked and amazed but during these activities I saw a group of girls sitting in a corner and doing their homework for school. And we wonder why China is surpassing the rest of the world.

We then had them decorate a Christmas tree. Except that a student took the place of the tree. This was the one activity that I think turned out the best.

Then came the CCs (sales staff) turn to do a dance. They did this dance based on a youku.com (China’s version of Youtube) video of workers at a KFC doing a dance. (http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMjI3OTUyMzIw.html). If you watched the video they are using leaks and so did the CCs. It was cute, but it didn’t blow me away.

The next act was the TAs dance. The weeks leading up to the party we knew and heard the TAs practicing in a classroom but we never saw what they were actually doing in there. They performed this dance to this pumped of version of “Oh Susana” (you know, “Oh Susana, now don’t you cry for me…”). And they were good. They were all in sync; it looked good, well choreographed.

The last act of Sam’s magic show. Sam was really nervous about his magic show, and not to help the other teachers and I kept on reminding him and exaggerating the pressure. The weeks before the show, Sam went to a magic shop and got a few tricks. One was a wand that extends, another was a never ending tissue paper from the mouth, he got this box and bag trick where the bag looks empty but you pull different size boxes from the bag. And the fourth was this trick where you put a cell phone in a bottle. In the weeks leading up to the party Sam had been practicing on everyone. He got too nervous doing the cell phone in the bottle trick so he kept it to just the three other tricks. The magic show went pretty well. He was able to pull of most of the ticks. He had one little problem with the never ending paper. Shirley, his assistant, put the roll of paper in his mouth the wrong way so when she went to pull it out, it didn’t work properly. Sam got a little flustered but pushed through.

At the end of the evening the kids were served dinner. It was fairly fancy but it turned out to be a total mess. Most of the kids were young and needed help being served food, but there were some older kids who were able to just grab food. As I walked around the hall I saw kids just grabbing food with their hands and shoving it in their mouths. What a way to end.

All in all I think the Christmas party went pretty well. Although I would never have paid the 250 RMB it costs per person for the party.

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About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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