Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Total Anarchy

Christmas came to Harbin. That is for sure. But it did not stay long, at least not in spirit.

Sunday, Christmas Day, I spent 8 hours teaching. It wasn't bad, I was thankful to be around people and not alone for the holiday, even if 'being around people' meant doing my job. Most of the day I was quite chipper and playful, all save for one loss of temper to a kid who pushes my buttons every Sunday morning by throwing pencils or kabonging his classmates on their heads.


Nick got the point. The rest of my classes were quite enjoyable. Once the working day was over the boss treated us to a Western style dinner at a restaurant everyone, for sone reason, kept describing as "posh." The spread was nice, though the comfort foods of my own Christmas Past lay absent from the table, but so did traditional Chinese fare and that was good enough for me. Plus I smuggled in my last bottle of Dewars. Hooray.

Waking up on the 26th I had no commitment till our school's Christmas Party at 6 PM. The day was relaxing, but it didn't matter. Not once that party started.

I guess this Christmas Party is a yearly event, or at least is attempting to become one as this was the "Second Annual." Night 1, the 26th, we had invited the older students. Night 2 would be the littler ones. I was supposedly hosting Night 2 but I didnt know what that entailed. Once I saw how Night 1 was going down, I realized noone had any idea what anything entailed.

Monday night, for over two hours, I simply sat in a chair and slowly lost hearing to an infernal din of screaming kids, popping balloons, and incessent feedback. No one could hear any performance. The "hostess" never did anything after her first little introduction. The kids were bored, discipline and organization were no where to be seen, and in the end it just became a free-for-all as gifts were attempted to be handed out by raffle or by Santa.

I won't lie, it was hysterical to watch the kids storm screaming for gifts or candy only then to watch them drop one by one as flying treats smacked them in eyes, noses, and other areas across the general face area.

Determined to avoid these problems while taking my turn as host (Night 1 only had a single Chinese staff member hosting, Night 2 was supposed to be me, a Chinese staff member, and two kids) I spent most of Night 1 discussing with my co-hostess everything that was going wrong and how we could fix it for our night. We came up with a long list of good ideas that we both liked a lot and that the other Chinese girls thought were great ideas. With hope, Night 2 wouldn't be the fiasco Night 1 became after only 10 minutes.

Well, I've learned the power of the boss in China. All-encompassing. Unquestionable. Blind. Most every suggestion got shot down, and the girls (who after 10 months have come to trust me quite a bit) all told me they disagreed with the boss but they couldn't do anything about it. I follow a "function before form" philosophy, the boss the inverse, and each to such an extent that the language barrier is far from our biggest problem. Good example: my co-hostess, who thought it was a revolutionarily amazing idea to have all the staff meet an hour before the party to simply walk through the program and understand who would be responsible for what, didn't show up to the school until 30 minutes before the show. Why? Because the boss didn't approve of her make-up (it was tastefully done) and wanted more make-up (trailer-trash quantities) applied and the prom dress slightly altered. Why? Who cares? Moments before the show? Removing the only staff member who had the answers to all questions? I dunno.

Night 2 did go better than Night 1. We ended on time, kept everything in the program, and the kids were comparatively well-behaved. Not that I haven't had my share of Exedrin lately or that my ears are still ringing.

And now it is back to business as usual. There is a silly schedule flip up mix around, as there seems to be whenever anyone in China gets a day off work... I really don't know how to explain this but I'll try in person at some point. Anyways, this week defines a slack schedule but next week I'm getting slammed with two weekends. It'll take a lot out of me, but thanks to my schedule as is (heavy weekends, little during the week) its going to put a nice wad of RMB in my pocket. So I got that goin' for me.


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