Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sporty Spice

As I mentioned once before, our students had a sports meet last month. I never followed up on that day, but we went to the opening ceremony and it was just as cute as I had hoped it would be. Gus took a video of our favorite student performance, a reenactment of the Iraq war:



The basic outline of this story will be familiar to you from Seymour Hersh's reporting for The New Yorker, but for those of you who are not willing to watch this 70 second video, a summary: George Bush and Saddam Hussein have a fistfight while someone holds a "NO WAR" poster in the background, then a Chinese athlete stops the war by carrying an olympic torch through the fistfight, then everyone begins to dance.

Anyway, that was the annual students sports meet. Guess what happens this Saturday? (Hint: it rhymes with "peachers ports skeet" and involves my being humiliated by colleagues and coworkers in front of my students.)

Everyone who guessed "Teachers Sports Meet" gets to help me bang erasers after class. Just give them a good banging. Bang 'em on up.

So this past Friday, Kai from PiA was back in town on his way out of China, and we had lunch with him, our boss, and our boss's boss. (A fun linguistic situation: Kai doesn't really speak Chinese, the big boss doesn't really speak English, and since our boss is an English teacher we usually speak English with him because that validates his English expertise, but when we're around other Chinese people we just usually use Chinese, so party like a rockstar.) This was a classic Cantonese liquid lunch, in that it involved both soup and a fair amount of alcohol. Just like at the banquet at the beginning of the year, the alcohol policy is simple: our boss runs around refilling our cups as fast as we can all think of new things to toast to. Chinese people are remarkably sincere about this whole toast thing, so over the course of lunch (which, let's remind ourselves, had exactly five people in attendance) we toasted the future our our school, the blossoming relationship between the United States and China, and Barack Obama.

I had never met the uberboss before, by the way, and he was a fascinating man. He pulled out some cigarettes as soon as he sat down at the table and offered some to us, which we politely declined. "No?" he responded. "You don't smoke? You should try it. A lot of people in China like to smoke." Later during the lunch, he asked us whether drunk driving was a big problem in America. We said that it was, and he said that the police had recently gotten much more serious about drunk driving in China. "That's why I'm only having a bit of wine," he said, holding up his glass. "I have to drive later. It's these new rules. Before I could have been drinking with you guys." Truly a role model for China's youth.

Over the course of this lunch, our boss asked us if we had signed up for an event at the sports meet yet, and we replied that we hadn't. I guess we were planning on signing up for something, but I was sort of hoping that everyone would forget about it and we would never have to compete in anything as obviously barbaric as a teachers sports meet. But our boss decided that we needed to sign up NOW, so he pulled out his phone and called the organizer of the event to sign us up right away.

He asked us whether we liked running, and I said, sure, I guess I like to run, and so he said that we were going to be doing running events. Then he asked what distances we'd like to do. Gus said he'd do the 400 and the 100 while I hemmed and hawed, and then our boss said to me, "I'm doing the 800. Why don't you do the 800? Do the 800." And that's how I got signed up to run the 800 meter race.

Now obviously, obviously, this is awful. The 800 is really, really hard. You might thing that my longish legs and height advantage here should give me an edge, but Gus is taller than me and has longer legs than me, and last year he came in dead last when he tried the 800. (Sorry, Gus! That context is necessary for the story.) So I can't bank on anything. And it's not like I'm captain running.

That's why we called the lady today and told her in no uncertain terms that I would not be running the 800 meter race, and that I would like to run only the 400. I opted for that instead of the 100 because I'm more of a long distance runner than a sprinter. Really I'm more of a sit down read a booker than a runner of any kind, but if there's one thing I'm definitely not it's someone who can run 100 meters in a non-embarrassing amount of time.

So in 5 days Gus and I are going to compete in this contest of sport. Which is why tonight at 11 pm, when no one was watching, Gus and I snuck onto the track at the school and tried to train for approximately 10 minutes before calling it a night and going back to the apartment to watch Arrested Development. Next stop, fitness! And competition glory! The more likely option is that I (and, by extension, America) will end the week in total disgrace. CAN'T WAIT.

Oh speaking of total disgrace, more lunchtime fun. Our boss's boss was complementing Gus and me on our looks (what else is new), and he asked one of the waitresses, pointing at me, "Wouldn't you say he's a handsome boy?" And she responded, "I don't think he'd really count as handsome in Guangzhou" and then she said a sentence in Cantonese, and then our boss's boss turned to me and said, "She say's you're...pretty. Very pretty."

So, verdict: I'm a pretty boy. Who still sucks at running.