I have eaten more cake this week then the past year combined. It’s a perfect storm of birthday’s and end-of-year parties that had me shovel piece after piece into my mouth. Chinese birthday cakes are all thick sugary frosting and no cake, but then I’ve never been one to turn down a piece.
It all started with Ryan’s birthday. Last year my class surprised his class with a cake, but this year, I didn’t have class the same time as him (and I hate repeating old tricks). So what’s a wife to do?
Well, it just so happened he had office hours that day. A time when he sits in his office for 2 hours and just talks to anyone that comes in. Perfect place for a party, eh?
A few days before, with the help of some students, I ordered a cake, got some decorations and got prepared. Then, on party day the same students left class early to help me decorate the office. During the week I contacted a few students who usually go to Ryan’s office hours and told them to come early for the surprise. Word spread and 10 minutes before Ryan was due to arrive there were almost 20 students in the office.
We waited, in nervous silence, for the familiar sound of keys jingling to announce his arrival. (Trying to keep that many people silent is quite a feat.) I had gotten a can of silly string and it was now in the hands of William, a junior. “Just shoot it around him,” I said. “Not in his face, exactly, but around his head.” Â Ha ha, as you can tell from the picture that didn’t quite work out that way.
Cake time had one more little surprise, but not for Ryan. Instead we had just learned that the day before was Autumn’s birthday. (Autumn is another teacher here and the student’s favorite.) Autumn was at the party, and she didn’t know that on the birthday cake was also her name. So I lifted the top off the box, andÂ viola! “It’s for you too Autumn!’ we shouted.
Then we set to the task of eating the cake.
Then after that was done, everyone got a little quiet and unsure what to do next. Then, one of the students, said something about singing. In China, a party is not a party without some singing and dancing.Â It seems like just about everyone in China can sing, but we had a few ‘powerhouse’ singers in the room, juniors who are known for singing well. Â Suchun and William sang together for the first time. They did Stan by eminem, and Suchun did the Dido part, while William rapped.
Justin Beiber is huge in China, and these students had sang Baby at aÂ performanceÂ before, so Kelly sang it while we (unsuccessfully) tried to get the boys to do their dance moves. I caught it all on tape. (Sorry for those in China, it’s a youtube video cause I don’t know how to upload to the Chinese sites yet.)
Then we got William and Carou to sing a song I had never heard before. It’s called She by some group I had never heard of before. Carou was feeling all shy, but after a lot ofÂ cajolingÂ she finally went for it.
The party was a total success, but it wasn’t the only surprise party in the office that week. A few days later Ryan threw a surprise for the girl he tutors, Wendy. She is younger, and going through a tough time in school. Typical teen stuff,Â loneliness, too much work, and when Ryan found out she never had a birthday party before, he set to remedy it. So a bunch of strong happy women (many of whom were at Ryan’s party) came to surprise her and become new friends. She was totally surprised and I even think we made her cry.
But the cake-spectatcular wasn’t over yet. In fact, while one student was picking up the cake for Ryan (for Wendy’s party) I was in the same bakery with other students ordering another. This one wasn’t for a birthday, but rather a graduation, but it was going to be a surprise.
I have a student, a senior from another major, who has been coming to my speaking class all year long. He didn’t know any of the students on the first day, but over the course of the year became very friendly with them. In China schools do nothing for graduation. No ceremony, no getting your diploma in front of your friends, no nothing. The students do borrow the cap and gown, but only for photos. To me that is totally anti-climatic. I mean yes, graduations are often boring, but there is still some meaning in it, some recognition that you have worked hard for four years. So if the school wasn’t going to do it, then it was up to me.
I told the student, whose name is Color, to prepare a small speech. After all, he is graduating and I wanted him to give advice to the younger students (who were freshman). But after his speech I told him to stay in the front of the room. Lindy, the class monitor and leader, read a certificate that said Color was an honorary class member and then we pulled out the cake and tried to sing a rousing chorus of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” I say tried, because it was totally new to them and they basically just mumbled or messed up the words. (It was quite funny actually.)
Then Color had to hold hold up the cake while every student took a picture of him. It was like the paparazzi as every student was yelling “Over here,” and “Look at me.”
We had about 15 minutes of cake time, and at some point I started to hear an unusual amount of squealing and happy screaming coming from the other side of the room. Turns out I had a mini food fight on my hands, with the weapon being the sugary frosting. I tried to retain order (and at least keep them out of the hallway) and one of the students was helping me. “Relax everyone,” he kept saying. “calm down.”
“What a help,” I though, until I turned around and caught him chucking some cake at another boy. Oh well.
No one got away unscathed. Not even me, and not the guest of honor Color. In fact, I think he might have gotten it worse than most people.
So I’m all caked out at this point, but it was one of the most fun week’s of classes and parties. And I’m sure the local bakeries are pretty happy as they are several hundred kuai richer this week.