‘Zouk, Basketball, Marriage Culture

My bouzouki had been missing a string since the day before I left to come to China, so I figured it was high time to fix it. Naturally, most shops in China have never seen a bouzouki before, so I was unsure about bringing it in. I had no idea how to restring it because there is a metal peice over where the strings begin. I brought it to a few stores and finally in one store, after a bit of yanking and tugging and pulling (and a lot ‘please don’t break it’ ‘s on my part), the metal peice just slid off and I was able to easily put another string on. This whole ordeal was right near the glass door of the store, so by the time I had a string, quite a crowd had gathered. After that was fixed up, the guy (a great salesman) got me to get a nice strap for it as well. Two new strings, help restringing and a nice new strap all came out to be 12 RMB (1.75USD)!!

This week’s lessons are all on Halloween, so it’s a fairly easy week for me. I’ve been doing the same lesson for all the grades, just making a little harder or easier depending. I found a video online of Donald Duck that I showed to all the classes, then I ask them what they saw in it (duck, pumpkin, ghost, bat, witch..). I’ve watched this video about 22 times this week… The lesson has worked out pretty well and now a lot of students have been yelling ‘CANDY, GIVE ME CANDY!’ whenever I pass by. Even my second graders were almost ok this week. I showed them a picture of dad, mom, me and erik before a haunted house we did a long time ago. I think the picture was taken in the doorway of Auntie Celeste’s and Uncle Mike’s house. They thought it was hilarious that people would dress up like that and didn’t believe that it was me in the picture. This weekend I’ll be going with Craig to Changsha to a Halloween party one of the World Teach teachers is having at her house. I’ll take pictures!

This Wednesday I had no classes in the afternoon so I went to watch the teachers play a basketball game. Craig usually plays with them, so he told me about it. I went down to the basketball courts to watch and was immediately surrounded by half of one of my 4th grade classes. I talked to them for a while, and it was nice to be able to chat with them outside of our classroom, I didn’t have to be so teachery! The basketball game was between the gym teachers at Xinwen and a bunch of dudes who came with some official looking people. I asked who they were and was told they are all ‘校长‘ which I thought meant ‘principal’, but there were so many of them, I figure there must be some other translation. Maybe it was the ‘school board’ or something. This type of game happens almost every week. There are all sorts of basketball teams from different companies and schools, that play against each other. One week it was against a group of doctors, once against a paper company or something. After each one of these games, they all go out and eat dinner together. The team that hosted the game pays for it, since the ‘guest’ team are treated as actual ‘guests’.
We went to a local restaurant and ate outside. I sat with a bunch of Xinwen’s gym teachers, Craig and the girl who was the referee for the game. I hadn’t ever actually had the chance to have a conversation with any of them, so it was nice.
One thing I’ve been coming to realize is a big cultural difference between people of my age in China and in the West, is the obsession with marriage here. I am always asked if I am married, when I plan to marry, if I have children, why I am not married yet, etc etc. When I say I’ll be spending at least 5 years in China, the response is always “so you must be looking for a Chinese husband, have you met anyone yet?” When I respond that I have no intention of getting married anytime soon and that I don’t even like thinking about it at this point in my life, I get looked at like I have two heads (two very foreign heads!). Unmarried Chinese girls in their 20’s that I meet seem to always have it on there mind, unless they are girls in ‘seedy’ places like nightclubs or bars (not really an acceptable place to spend time in small town China). All the teachers in my school who are close to my age or a little older are all married or are on the verge of being married. To me it seems old-fashioned, but I’ve been reading some articles online about it recently, and I’m kind of coming to understand that for a lot of people there isn’t really another option. If you aren’t married by the time you are 30 in China, you are doomed to a life alone. There are many more men in China than women, so women are starting to get very picky and demand someone who can support them as a housewife (even if this woman has gotten a university degree). To me it seems like something very old-fashioned in a country that is very quickly becoming modern, but that is just from my foreign perspective.
This is an article I was just reading:
Wife vs. House: Chinese Men Discuss What They Can Afford
I’m sure this isn’t true of everyone, there are definitely people my age who aren’t clamoring to get married. Maybe it’s because Liuyang is a small town, but it seems like it might be this way in big cities too.
Just a very different culture!

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