Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Silence of Time

Cocktail parties are de rigeur in our school chain these days. It started back when my second creative, but barely tolerable, centre manager had it as an idea: it took; it sold and other centres just had to follow the same line.
Our centre is the fourth to give it a shot and though it feels a little disorganised, it should be fun and taking place tonight. (I'm sending this after midnight.) You can't just make cocktails though: you need activities. And we have activities. And of course I need to do an activity, too.
Our most versatile local teacher didn't know what he was going to do. He wasn't familiar with cocktail parties enough, so I threw an idea out there: The Double D Variety Show. (Our names both start with D, if you should be thinking the wrong thing.) We had hoped that students would queue up to perform in some way. We were disappointed. We only had a few takers and that left a lot of time for the hosts to construct "games" and activities.
I decided on an activity one morning: I'd ask the crowd if they know what hypnotism was. And then explain it, and elaborate that the other D had been hypnotising me over the week to get me to do something special at this party. He'd then ask me: Do you know how to speak Chinese? Do you know any Chinese songs? Both of these I'd deny and pretend to be on his idea. He'd clap his hands and my head would sink limply and he'd speak to the audience about his plan, saying that when I heard certain music I'd believe I was a Chinese rock star and even prepare a student with a yellow card, the punishment for staff who speak Chinese in our centre. He'd clap me back awake and then play the music. My face would tense. I'd grab a marker and then sing my favourite Cantonese rock song, well the first verse until he'd put an end to it. And clap me back to consciousness, and the denial and the punishment.
A great gag. I hope it works. I hope I don't laugh. And I hope I don't pull a blank in front of a crowd. Singing a song in front of people would be a new thing. Karaoke is different. Everyone is doing it and not many would look at you, and you can stare at a screen for support. Fingers crossed.
Singing a song in another language without support is a little bit like driving around a curly racetrack. Once you start a verse it is fairly easy to go on, but get to a corner and you either make it or spin. There are several hairpin turns in this song - once I say one tricky sequence, it'll follow it up with a sucker punch line. Well, that's how it seems.
It is important to know that 98% of my students don't know I can speak any Chinese; and the other 2% just have suspicions that they can't quite confirm. At my last school I was spotted reading The Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the subway; at my first school, I was overheard telling a cleaner where to put something. But I've been largely free of suspicion: Probably, most will be suspicious after this performance. They will either have to believe that the second D can hypnotise or at the very least I can remember whole tracts of Cantonese and produce largely with correct pronunciation... Is it worth the gag?
The song I'll sing is called the Silence of Time, and starts outrageously: I've down a thousand cups yet aren't drunk. An appropriate line to start the partying, you'd think.

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