Finally getting back to blogging. Again.
One morning at breakfast in the campus cafeteria, while in Kaifeng, Jackie turned to me, kind of out of nowhere, and said, “Kristina.” I gave him my full attention. And he continued, “You know…when I first started in my position here, there was a teacher named Christina.” (I’m just assuming it wasn’t another Kristina with a Kay.) “I think that’s a sign,” he said. “You should come back here to teach.” We talked about it off and on during our time in China. And to be honest, hardly a day goes past even now that I don’t think about it. There are basically two things standing in my way at this point. The mother. And the fur family – you can’t really explain to cats & dogs (and a bird) that you’re going away for a year but that you’ll be back. The mother has basically said she’s going to try to talk me out of it. But it’s something I have to decide for myself and part of me thinks I just need to get away – far away – for a while. I’ve lived in the same place my whole life, with the exception of my first year of college. I need a change. And if I’m going to do this – teach abroad – this is probably my last chance to do it – before I dive back into some sort of career in the U.S.
Anyway. So to continue on with Kaifeng.
One of the days, we met up with a couple of the other (Chinese) English teachers on campus and they gave our dear guide Jackie a much needed break. We spent the afternoon at an English “forum” – that’s what it was called when it was described to us but I’m not sure I’d call it a forum. More like…. umm… a bunch of Chinese students coming to hang out with the Americans and practice their English? It was really informal but a lot of fun. We all sat around this big table and split off into small groups with 3-5 Chinese students to each American. I ended up with a group of about 4 Chinese girls. We talked about so many random things. Movies, music, school – specifically, the process for applying to graduate schools in the US as it’s something a few of the girls were planning to do – travel, and a million other things.
We had dinner with the English teachers and then, I’m not sure if it was planned this way intentionally or if it was just a happy coincidence but the university was having an English contest while we were there and we were able to attend one portion of it that evening. I believe it was the Vice President of the university who, when he was giving his little introduction before the contest, mentioned that we were in the audience. It was sweet. I have no idea what he said, since it was all in Chinese, but I was sitting next to one of the English teachers and she told me that he was talking about us.
So at that point in the contest, which was kind of a big deal on campus, the contestants had already been through several stages and those we were seeing, were the best of the best. Each contestant prepared a 3 minute speech. Then they were given a random prompt and had to talk about it – a picture, comic, or short video clip (in Chinese) – for 2 minutes. And finally, one of the judges, J.P., a Canadian guy who was living in the same place we were staying, asked them questions related to their two different speeches.
Throughout the contest, they had this screen up at the front of the auditorium that was streaming comments that the audience members made on Weibo – the Chinese answer to Twitter (which is blocked). Most people were wishing their friends luck. So when a message popped up talking about the “American boy,” it got our attention. Turned out a girl in the audience had a crush on Dom. It was the cutest thing. Went on throughout the course of the contest. Hilarious. After the contest, the girl found Dom and they took a picture together but being the silly American boy that he is, he didn’t exchange contact information with her. How cute of a story would that have been if they’d somehow ended up together? She moving to the US or him to China? Married? All because she Weibo-ed about him at a university English contest. Hah. Anyway.
One of the contestants came up to our group after the contest was over to introduce himself. His English name is Patrick. He was definitely one of the best. He’d asked if we could talk before we left Kaifeng but we never were able to get together. But we have kept in touch since then, through WeChat – another Chinese answer to the apps that have been blocked in their country.
The next day we went to a museum. Most of which is now a blur in my head. But I remember enjoying it at the time for what that’s worth. That evening was a lot of fun though – we went to a “show with pretty lights” – that’s what I wrote in my journal that night anyway. Hah. At this point in the trip, I’d been feeling pretty crappy for several days. Mostly allergies, I think. But that night, Zach gave me an…..interesting combination of medication – this will help with the sneezing, this with the congestion, this with…. Anyway…whatever he gave me resulted in a rather “high” Kristina. But I was feeling better the next day so his concoction must have done the trick.
Back to the “light show.” It was outside, at night, and was really unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. The Chinese students who went with us knew the story they were depicting – a famous story in China. But even for us, without knowing what was going on the entire time, it was simply fun to watch.
I’ll try to figure out where exactly this was (I still have the program) stashed away.
The next day, we went to a couple of embroidery…factories? Basically a room full of women creating these magnificent works.
We were told they go through a course to learn how to do it…But I can’t imagine I’d ever have the patience or skill.
That afternoon we had a bit of free time. After I took a short nap, we all went down to this cafe on campus. And honestly, when I think of going back to Kaifeng, this is one of the places I can imagine myself hanging out. It was just a little shop that served coffee as well as beer – nothing all that exciting. But it felt like a place I’d be comfortable spending my afternoons or evenings.
By the way, you might notice something interesting hanging on the wall… An image on the front cover of a magazine from Sept. 11, 2001. I wasn’t quite sure what this meant. If they were showing that they cared? Or perhaps something not as nice. I was told that there’s a lot of propaganda in schools about the U.S. and not all of it is kind, or true for that matter. When I asked Jackie what he thought about it, he was just as confused as we were.
Just inside the door, there was a fish bowl and a box of kittens & their mother just kind of hanging out. As you might imagine, I loved it.
After a while of just relaxing in the little shop with our beverages (I had an Americano and it was heavenly – as I mentioned in an earlier post, (good) coffee is not as readily available in China as it is in the U.S.) and the free Wifi, Dom & Dao went off to explore a bit. They returned quickly though to tell us they’d found the bar J.P (the Canadian English teacher) had mentioned to us. And we decided to check it out even though it was the middle of the afternoon and likely to be empty.
Well, as we discovered, it was not empty. There were quite a few Chinese students who eagerly crowded around us after a few awkward moments of confused stares at the white people – and they were not shy about telling us they were skipping class to have a drink (or 20). We stayed there for a couple of hours and had a couple of beers – very weak by our standards – and played drinking games with a group of about 10 Chinese students. It was completely unexpected but a ton of fun.
After that, we made our way back to meet up with Dr. O and Jackie for dinner, which was then followed by some shopping with the girls from our first day in Kaifeng – a perfect way to bookend our stay in the lovely little city.
And that’s it for Kaifeng. In my next post, which hopefully will follow within the next couple of days, I’ll write about Xi’an.
Until then —