My students have never been able to keep a secret. Whether is about a secret love, or something funny that happened, usually someone, or several someones tells me about it.
But what about when the secret is for me? Well, I usually hear about it too. A few weeks ago, I started hearing rumors or a party for me, and I quickly realized the students were planning a surprise birthday party for me.
It’s not my birthday until the end of the month, and normally I have a big birthday barbecue. But this year I’ll be in America so I figured we wouldn’t have a party together. Luckily, the students of case 105 disagreed and took it upon themselves to have a birthday party.
Of course when the guest of honor knows about the surprise it kind of ruins it a little, so I have been trying to feign ignorance. That got a little trickier when more and more students told me about it.
“I thought this was your birthday party,” said one student at the declaration of love. “But that’s not till June 8th!” Whooooops. I also had other students, from other classes, asking me if students were having a party for me. And in the morning of my party some students called me up and asked to borrow the decorations we used in the christmas party. Later in the day another student called to borrow my teacher card (which turns on the computers.) Subtle they were not.
But arrived at the building at the time they told me to. When I got off the elevator I heard the raucous sounds of talking and laughing echoing down the empty hallway. One of them spotted me and I heard ” BECKY’S HERE!!! SHHHHHHHHHHHH!” The lights went out.
Lindy, the monitor (or class leader) ran down the hallway to greet me. We walked by the room and I peeked in the back door and saw all these little faces peering out looking at me, stifling giggles. I walk into the still dark room and 30 students try vainly to hid behind the few desks spread around. Then the lights came on, they jumped up and yelled “Surprise! Happy Birthday!!” On the board was written “Welcome to Becky’s Birthday party” and the room was decorated with ribbons, balloons and, of course, Christmas stuff.
Then everyone was asked to sit down in the chairs which had been arranged like an auditorium. In the past, I have had western style parties, but this one was all Chinese, and was more like a performance than a party. Silmon was the host of the evening (the picture at the top of the entry) and the first event was a short video celebrating our past two years together. So moving. (Youtube video so you need your VPN if watching in China.)
And if that wasn’t moving enough Lindy wrote a poem for me all by himself. I have had this class for writing all year and while Lindy was a fine student, writing is not his favorite thing. So it was really sweet that he did that. (Again, youtube.)
Then, it was time for singing. First May sang a Chinese song about friendship, then Jorsen sang a song by my favorite chinese singer, Wang Leehom. Then there were about 3 more songs sung in small groups or individually. Singing naturally progressed to dancing, and I got a special performance of some of the boys.
Then it was game playing time. The first game was a kind of telephone/charades mashup. The first person got a word or action (like, going to the bathroom, or singing) and they would have to act it out to the next person in line. It would go down the line, with each person first watching, then doing the action themselves, until it got to the last person who had to guess what it was. Pretty funny game, especially when it was dancing, or picking your nose.
Then, after checking that I could count in Chinese, we played a game in which we went around the room counting to 30. But every time you had a number that included 3 (such as 3 or 13) or a number divisible by three (like 6 or 12) you had to clap instead of saying the number. If you messed up you had to do a punishment.
“Wait, this is a math game?!” I asked. “But I’m American, you know I can’t do math!”
I was convinced that I would be the first to lose, but amazingly somehow I didn’t. I’m glad because the punishment was drinking a small cup of vinegar or kissing the wall.
Then out came the cake. They couldn’t lite the candles, because we were in a classroom, but we pretended they were lit, and I pretend blew it out, and they sang happy birthday to me. It might sound silly, but it was one of those things I’ll remember forever. All the students, gathered around, looking at me with total love and affection while singing and clapping, and me beaming back.
Then they gave me some gifts. In the past, it was cute stuff, but this year they obviously know me much better. I got tea, notebooks for writing, and some handmade clay figures.
Then they handed me a scroll. I unrolled it and it was a photo heart collage with their pictures and some birthday wishes on it. So incredibly sweet.
And if that wasn’t enough, some girls handed me a small box. I opened it, expecting candy or something, but inside I saw a big stack of cards. 105 cards to be exact.
“There are 105 wishes,” one student explained to me, “because we are class number 105. We asked 105 students, in different majors and different grades, to write a birthday wish to you.”
How amazing are my students?! This must have taken them forever to ask so many different people to write something on these small cards. It is, by far, one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever gotten and something I will love, love, love forever.
I haven’t written about it yet, but recently the foreign teachers have been having a lot of trouble with our boss. So much so that many teachers have jumped ship, found other schools, and for a short while, I considered it myself. But then I think of these students (they are only sophomores) and while I know our separation is imminent, but it doesn’t have to happen yet. Even if I get screwed in my next contract it is worth it to spend time with these amazing people.