Today I had my second English Corner, the after-class English extravaganza that gets held sporadically at schools throughout China. My own students organized it, so I had too many invitations to get out of it had I wanted to. Actually, I'm always game for the things they throw at me here; I like the mystery of not knowing what I'm getting myself into. They had insisted that I play and sing a song, so I prepared the easy "Wishlist" by Pearl Jam, but managed to get out of it when they didn't give me a microphone for my voice, and I instead did a quick instrumental. They of course put the foreign teachers up on a platform, filming us and taking our pictures, and handing us microphones with no warning whatsoever to make speeches with instructions like "talk about life". I fielded questions from the crowd about how to learn English (you get to be a pro after answering similar questions 200 times) and why Americans are "crazy", helped Phillip through a questionable version of "Wonderwall", and was taken to dinner by students afterwards.
I forgot to mention an incident that happened a couple of weeks ago. I was waiting at the school gates on Tracy who was visiting, when a boy came out of nowhere and announced "I want to sing an English song for you". He promptly launched into "Take Me To Your Heart", one of the two or three most popular English songs in all of China, and also one of the worst songs you might ever have the displeasure of hearing. It's actually a translation of a Chinese song, and the band Michael Learns to Rock (who I'm told are a "rock" band, hah) are making completely unfair amounts of money in Asia. I had to physically bite my lip not to laugh at the silliness of it, and then thanked him very politely for his song. The moral of the story is: if you are a foreigner in China, try not to stand in one place for a long time.
I was coerced into dancing again by Danielle, but this time with four mutual students of ours. To my amusement this included Hank and Sunshine, two students in different classes who are dating. Hank is very tall, wears a shirt that says "Caution You Are Leaving the Security Semir [no, I don't know what a 'semir' is either]", and looks like a mechanic. Sunshine is fully deserving of her English name, and has one of the most unceasingly bright smiles I've ever seen. She's hard to look at straight in the eye. I think they make a funny couple, and it's a little unusual to see dating students present themselves in front of me, rather than immediately dropping hands and walking in different directions in the hope that I didn't notice. Once a student actually gasped at seeing me, dropped her boyfriend's hand like so much dead fish, and hid behind him as he walked (I was sure to give a friendly hello).
Because we didn't realize the place didn't open until 9:30, we had a lot of time to kill. I thought I'd take them to Xiao Ma's guitar shop (I'll now refer to him as Little Ma because that is what "xiao" means and it's more amusing) because I hadn't been in a while, but this turned out to be incredibly awkward, with none of them saying a word to us and a drum lesson going on in the background. We then went to our bar with our students, which proudly proclaims itself the "Drear Bar" in English (misspelling of "dream") and features swings instead of seats. When we finally arrived at the dance club (English name: Hot Ball Place), it was in full swing, and I was positively shocked to see the two poles being occupied by very scantily clad dancers from the club. Not in Our Zhangye, surely.
Within four minutes of being on the dance floor, a middle-aged man in a suit grabbed my hand, and held it tightly as he danced along with me. Sadly, this is more likely than my hand being grabbed by any young females in Zhangye, where close same-sex physical contact by males or females doesn't raise an eyebrow but public kissing is scandalous. He then passed me onto his "friend", who I would've assume to be his wife, who seemed to be casting too many glances in my direction during the night after our awkward 40-second dance. At 11:00 sharp, Dance Time was over, and Sing-Song Time/Male Dancer in Amazing Puffy Pink Outfit Time/Weird Skits Involving Angry Kitchen Staffs Time commenced. This was our cue to leave, not to mention that the student dorms are locked and the lights turned off at 11:30 (I should mention this was Saturday night).
I'll end with a selection from the English Menu extravaganza that graces the food markets in a certain spot in Zhangye, which I enjoyed the other day: Braising in soy sauce the meat rubs the fish. That it does.