Home > Uncategorized > Wei–Wo shi Mei Guo Ren! (Hey–I’m an American!)

Wei–Wo shi Mei Guo Ren! (Hey–I’m an American!)

Things got better after I posted on Sunday—I went out to the public square with Steve, Stephanie, Megan, Chad and Xander where we happened upon a huge crowd ballroom dancing in the roped off concrete area. A middle aged man in a tucked-in t-shirt man steered me through the crowds of sundresses and high heels, and when our dance was done, thanked me, pointed from Steve to me and jerked his thumb toward the floor. The music was heavy on the waltz beat, like a mallet on the head of a snare drum, and consistently had a warbling soprano to ride over it. Megan joined me in an electric slide-style line dance that everyone seemed to know. I picked it up pretty fast thanks to 10 years of dance classes. Megan didn’t have the same experience.

Afterward, a crowd of young people laughed uproariously at something on their video camera screen. Megan looked over their shoulders and faced us with tragedy-mask in place. “They filmed me trying to do the dance,” she cried.

We might be completely lost a large part of the time, we might not be sure whether we’re moving into the city or staying out in Zhong Shan, and we might be eternally unsure of our schedules and whether or not the bus is coming, but there’s a lot of kindness dispensed by those around us.

“Why do you look so happy all the time?” A student asked me in class today.

It may be from lugging my guitar back and forth on the school bus, or the eagerness with which the girls attempted the fifth-above harmony on our rendition of Heal the World (UIC, is such a special place/for you and for me/ it’s the school we should embrace), or maybe the gusto with which Michel laughed at Dinosaur comments when I showed him www.qwantz.com.

They’re not all amazing singers, but they all sing with enthusiasm—particularly the boys. I asked if their primary school teachers ever told them not to shout, explaining to them that everyone had to sing at the same level so all the parts could be heard.

“Then everyone must shout!” Eric said.

I asked them to sing like they were singing to a baby, and not to make the baby cry. They all sat down, dropped the octave, and sang a dirge.

I reminded them that they probably liked the baby and were maybe even smiling at it. That time they got it. When I told them to give each other high-fives, they all just gave me an air high-five.

Running on the all-weather track in the late-afternoon is one of my favorite after work activities aside from milk tea. For all the butt Chinese people kick, they have yet to produce a Flo Jo or a Prefontaine, and I usually feel like a rock star as I pass person after shuffling person. They’re often in jeans and a t-shirt—which probably doesn’t help speed. Every time I go I see the same bespectacled girl who always waves at me as I make my rounds. I don’t think she’s one of my students. She likes to walk backwards on tip toe on the edge of the track and do calisthenic exercises of some sort, and she’s always got a smile for me.

I think I’m close to hitting my stride. It should happen in the next couple of weeks.

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