I am not a great one for participating in games.
As a teacher, I love to organize them in my classroom. It’s fun to officiate over mini spelling bees, student blackboard contests or “Simon Says”. But actually participating in them? No thank you. It’s just not my thing
And that does become a problem inChinawhere party games and silly contests are always the hit of any group gathering, whether for children, teens, college kids or adults.
It happens in English Corner all the time. Ridiculous races or contests are always the warm-up crowd pleasers before we begin to divide into groups for English discussions. That’s why I tote my camera around with me everywhere. It’s an excuse to bow out of pop the balloon with your teeth or fill the container with water, a thimble-full at a time.
But yesterday, I found myself in a situation that pretty much demanded my participation.
Around 5 p.m., I received a telephone call from Mr. Lan, the vice-dean of the English Department.
“Connie! This is Mr. Lan. The teachers are having some fun games in the sports building. You can have a try. I think you will like it!”
The fact that the foreign teacher was invited to join in a staff gathering was actually a kind gesture. Usually, I’m forgotten about for meetings or parties. And although I hate games and silly races, and knew these would be exactly the kind of thing I whole-heartedly dislike, I decided to grit my teeth, force a smile and take part. After all, it’s always the thought that counts. Even if I didn’t particularly like the idea, this foreigner wasn’t going to be a spoil sport.
When I arrived at the covered sports building, the teachers had already been playing for 30 minutes. There were about 60 present from all different departments. Some teachers had classes or office work and weren’t able to attend. Those that showed, obviously, were quite willing and excited about the competitions.
This was organized by those at the school in charge of building stronger departmental relationships. These sort of things are quite common at schools and colleges inChina. They are meant to bring staff closer together, build school unity and add some fun to the tedious daily work that we all have to do.
The organizers had done a splendid job in their preparation. They had print-out sheets of the names of those who signed up beforehand, had divided everyone into heats and had a schedule of races we would be doing. I wasn’t on the list because I didn’t know about it but that didn’t stop my colleagues from thrusting me into the races, anyway. They were so pleased that I showed up and was willing to join in. My co-teacher, Ms. Zhao, was constantly at my side, hustling me to the different race areas, making sure the announcer knew my name and explaining the rules if I wasn’t clear what I was supposed to do.
There were 3 races I was able to complete.
The first was putting marbles into bowls using chopsticks. We had 90 seconds to race back and forth between bowls, filling one with marbles and emptying the other. The one who had the most marbles in 90 seconds was the winner. (I managed 10 marbles in my bowl, the lowest of any other participant. The winner had 28!)
Another race was jumping into hula-hoops, placed on the ground the width of the building. The winner of that race was the fastest to finish.
Then we had a clever ping-pong event. We had to run to the other end of the building, place the ping-pongs into bowls going down and then picking them up coming back. This was called “Sow the seeds and harvest the crops”. The “seeds” were the ping-pongs, which we “sowed” going down and “harvested” coming back.
Again, the winner was the one with the fastest time.
Yet another game had teachers back-to-back with a ball in the middle of them. They linked arms and had to shuffle to the other end and back again. You weren’t supposed to drop the ball, of course, and I was amazed that everyone could do that so well. Not easy.
“We’ve Got Spirit! Yes, We Do!”
It’s hard to imagine American teachers being at all enthusiastic about such activities. I can see them refusing to even show up unless forced into it by the administrators. But at our school, everyone was full of spirit and a great sense of fun.
They were also pretty darn competitive!
I was just happy to get through the events without falling flat on my face. My co-workers, on the other hand, took these games rather seriously. They went all-out in the contests, faces locked in serious concentration and pushing themselves as far as they could. Some became quite cross with a partner when they let the ball drop or goofed up the game so their times were slow.
Winners Get Prizes!
Perhaps the disappointment in not doing so well had to do with the prizes.
As always inChina, whenever you have a contest or competition, you get prizes.
Our prizes were as follows: 1st place – Kleenex boxes; 2nd place – washing detergent; 3rd place – Safeguard soap; 4th prize – toothpaste.
I know it doesn’t sound like much to get excited over but these are items used daily inChina. The Chinese are very financially frugal people, so receiving a useful item which you don’t have to buy yourself is a big deal.
Not So Horrendous After All
I must admit that, despite my dislike for party games and races, I did have a good time. Watching my colleagues enjoying themselves so much, and racing right alongside with them, did bring us closer together. I met some great people from different departments and became quite the popular one with my camera, snapping away memorable moments for everyone.
And on that last note, I’ll let you enjoy the photos of our gathering and see for yourself that this foreigner, despite her attitude toward games, made a good impression.
From Longzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) for your day.