For final exams, my students became the teachers. I learned all kinds of things from proper Chinese table manners and new dinner recipes, to magic tricks and origami, to kung fu and basketball. I learned how to weave a scarf and make traditional Chinese paper cuts. I also learned about the famous foods in provinces around the country, which made me eager to visit.
Later, I learned how to play Uno, Mahjong and a variety of card games. I learned the history of traditional Han Chinese clothing, some basic yoga poses and even how to be a proper Chinese wife, in case I meet and fall in love with a Chinese man. Then I learned the aspects of a traditional wedding, including the jokes played on the happy couple that signify good luck for a fast baby. But before the love and marriage stuff, I was informed (twice) on how to properly care for a baby because, you know, I’m probably going to want one of those one day soon.
The most interesting exam, however, might belong to Harden, the student who gave me four tips for “surviving” the end of the world. His number one suggestion? Find a rich boyfriend who owns either a helicopter or a hot air balloon so we can rise above the destruction and share the world’s most romantic experience together.
#2: Everybody should know Chinese Kung Fu, then the aliens and zombies would be too scared to attack. (Thank goodness another student taught me that.)
#3: Adopt a pet. At least you won’t die alone. (I’m one step ahead!)
#4: Never say never. Learn how to eat everything that flies, walks and swims, because you never know. (Luckily, I’m an adventurous eater.)
After the exams, Harden’s class invited me to dinner. We went to a local restaurant and the students asked what I wanted. I replied anything but the dog (which was on the menu) and we feasted on things such as sweet and sour chicken, grilled eggplant, frogs, fried lotus root, pig intestine and more.
Nobody expected me to try the frog. It was placed at the opposite end of a table large enough for 18 of us, and when I said I wanted some, they eagerly filled my rice bowl with a variety of juicy parts (more than just the legs, folks!). It tasted delicious, and I ate everything but the skin (eww). When I was finished, Harden was impressed.
“You stronger girl than I thought you are,” he said. “I think you can survive the end of the world.”
After everybody was full, we went across the street to play Mahjong. We enjoyed a great night of laughs, beers and learning how to play one of China’s most traditional and fun games. The students were good about explaining everything to me in English. It seems this class took their exams seriously. And for that, they all got A’s.
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