There’s No Business Like Show Business

Happy end of No-Shave November!  I did it this year cus why not?  Here’s what a month of not shaving (except for my neck, that shit’s gross) can do.

My shaving day also conveniently lined up with right before I had to emcee the foreign students’ gala on Saturday. (Hence the picture above and why I’m in a silver tux)

Officially it was the “2016 Hand in Hand International Students Gala”, basically a show the foreign students put on once a year, that I attended three years ago actually.  I got asked to emcee on Monday afternoon with the performance Saturday which gives you an idea of how well it was planned.  Along with me were five other emcee’s, Christine the RA of our program, two Chinese kids, Ijaz who’s an aeronautical engineering grad student from Pakistan, and Riquel who’s a management and engineering grad student from Antigua.  We had two days rehearsal with the script being changed right up until during the actual performance, Ijaz and Riquel almost got cut because they didn’t know we had dress rehearsal at 9am (the director sent that message out at 2:30am in Chinese which neither of them can really read), we were expected to find our own clothing (renting it, we *should* be getting reimbursed for that), the directors were kind of taking out their bad mood on us, and all in all it was a far too long 12 hour day.  Alright, there’s the complaining out of the way.

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It was actually a fairly fun experience, I would have had regrets if I had turned down the offer.  I’ve emcee’d in Chinese before, and there’s a fairly established custom.  Emcee’s open and close the show together with extremely flowery language that makes you cringe if you directly translate it into English (“The silk road linked China and the world…we unconsciously continued to write friendship.  We have become cultural ambassadors!”  “Here is the sweat of our brows, here are our unforgettable memories, most importantly here we join hands and celebrate together!”  Imagine me saying that in as grand a tone as you can).  My marching band training came back to help though, as posture is quite important.  I should say too, that it’s fun as hell and the flowery language is actually really fun to deliver.  The emcees then get paired into heterosexual couples that introduce each act with a (sometimes) lighter tone.

As far as the performances, it was a lot of dancing and singing, mostly by ethnically homogenous groups of students (i.e. all the Pakistani students did a dance, all the Thai students, all the Indonesian students, all the North Korean students,  all the Mongolian students, all the African students (cus Africa is a country apparently, or maybe there just weren’t enough of them) etc.)  Joining them were groups from two Russian universities who I can only imagine were on tour in the country (they didn’t speak any Chinese).  They were incredible performers though.  The group from Vladivostok was a traditional dance troupe that did some amazing work.

The other group was from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which brings me to my next point.  Even though we’re here in China, at a gala about each country’s culture, there were a lot of performances of American culture despite there being no American performers.  Mostly it was the Moscow group singing things like Ray Charles, Pharrel, etc., but there was also a group doing very American street dancing.  I notice too, that despite all these students being here to learn Chinese, English is still the common language in the halls when class gets out (not us obviously, we’re not allowed).  Just goes to show how ubiquitous American culture is.

Props go to my suitemate Xiao Bao for these pics, guy’s got a good eye.  Glad to have the gala over, time to get into final exam mode and roll out the last two weeks.  Here’s one I want to use as a profile picture were it not for the massive smug cloud it would give me.

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Coming back to my beard (or lack thereof), Chinese people of all genders seem to prefer clean-shaven men, clean cut men in general actually.  Every time I shave around Chinese people I always get compliments.  So I did make the conscious decision to shave for the gala (didn’t have to technically).  This then brings me to an interesting question I was asked in class the other week, “have you entered mainstream Chinese society?”

I have to say no, seeing that as a student I’ve been mainly confined to the academic aspects of Chinese society.  To truly enter the mainstream society, I’d have to get a job here, which I’m not planning on doing so this year (it’d be illegal under Fulbright for one).  So the short answer is no.  For a longer answer, we can look at mainstream Chinese college life.  There, the answer is still no I think.  The average Chinese college student’s life, at least at HIT where the population is like 90% male, consists of class, playing video games, going out for the odd meal and singing KTV once in a while.  I like KTV, I like going out, and I like video games, but often it seems not the same ones as my Chinese classmates.  There’s always a disconnect I can’t quite put my finger on.  Furthermore, those aren’t always my first choices of things to do.

Seeing as I wouldn’t describe myself as part of American mainstream society either, it makes it a bit hard to connect with Chinese folks on those aspects of it like movies, songs, etc that they actually know better than me most of the time.  I’m into craft alcohol, politics (which is discussable, but not always, aside: never thought I’d say those words), and other interests that I don’t commonly share with the average/mainstream Chinese person.  Dating’s a point of difference too, as mainstream society is all about dating for marriage, which makes having a car and a house a prerequisite for most people.

There’s also the knowledge that I’m not planning a long term life here.  I have Chinese friends, I have foreign friends, I can move around this country just fine, but my status as a foreigner in such a homogenous country makes me think that even if I were to immerse myself as much as I could in the culture and society, I’d still be on the outside.

Other news, threw a little impromptu birthday party for my roommate on Tuesday with the help of one of his friends.  A bit of a clusterfuck to plan, too many people, not all of whom knew each other, but it ended up working out pretty well actually.  Sang some KTV and had nice food, see the cake below.

And here’s some nice pictures from a day of snow.

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