Sunday, December 20, 2009


I descended the fire stairs with critical thoughts spiralling down with me. We had our school and work Christmas parties today and the latter, held after a long day, I was always going to be easily annoyed. I was rather exhausted, hungry and the backroom staff were too busy to start the staff party on time; so we waited a bit longer and then eventually they informed us they were ready. We proceeded into the party room and were greeted by a pile of food. The only foods I could eat were plum tomatoes and cake, neither of which were giving me any feeling for the dinner my stomach needed to keep me even slightly content. Then we did a secret Santa. We'd been told about this just days ago and I hadn't had time to get a gift so I grabbed the authentic DVD I bought a while ago (which was the same value as the maximum budget for the secret Santa). I got my gift, which was the equivalent of a $2 shop gift, little photo frame. The other foreign teacher left - it was his second to last day and he couldn't be bothered hanging around. The backroom staff made their own circle and were raucously laughing in Cantonese and Mandarin, and I decided to get out. I spoke to my "pick-me-up" students and then headed off to get something nourishing in my stomach.
It wasn't a bad day though, but needless to say, it was never going to have a spirit of any kind, let alone something lofty like the Christmas spirit. I worked from 9:30am with three classes and then switched to Christmas party mode. The organisation was less than optimal: the principal thought the opening would be in one place; I was directed to another, and I had to do the speech to open the event. Then once I'd finished the speech I marched to my room to teach two hours of continuous lessons for writing letters to Santa and New Year resolutions. It was revolving doors of groups: a group came in and once they were finished, they headed out and another lot came in.
And then finally that stage was over. I chatted to a few students but then suddenly got caught in a swirl of cameras: For a brief moment in the early evening, I became one of the most photographed figures on the planet. (I was lucky that Obama had already left Copenhagen.) In student crowds, photo fever is a fast-moving contagion; it just takes one teacher to surrender his likeness easily for the whole staff body to be open game; and once you pose one time, other meeker students raise the courage, and their cellphones, to yank you around with one arm and raise their peace sign fingers with the other; and besides, I'm a soft touch. Since the assembled mass included a lot of "friends of students" it was important to stay present with the attendees, talk to the unfamiliar faces and also do what management here would include as "customer service". (I don't want to criticise this cold way of talking about students because members of the teaching staff do neglect this side of things.)
Regarding the situation at the end of the party, being the noisy person I am, I'll probably mention, politely, a few of my concerns to the school manager. Politely because she is probably part of the problem. The real Christmas day is still six days away and I'm about to venture out of my city for the first time. I'm hoping to be refreshed!

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