If you’ve read this blog even a little you probably have a good idea of how much I love my students. I was going to write a summed up blog post called Ode to my Students, but then I realized that this entire blog was an ode to them, and one more post would be overkill.

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to, and dreading, this weekend for months. Most of the seniors had left school the past semester to find jobs or prepare for further study. So I’ve been missing them and couldn’t wait to see them. In the days leading up to graduation I had some dinners and text conversations with them. But I knew all the fun we would have would be tempered by the fact that at the end, we would have to say goodbye to each other.

I could wax poetic about my students for thousands of words, but instead I think I’ll just show some pictures.  (I took almost 1,000 pictures myself this weekend, plus the thousands of others from the students. Needless to say, weeding out just a few to show was quite a task.)

Friday Night

We kicked off our weekend with a giant dinner for all the seniors (180 total) which was awesome because I got to see everyone in one place at the same time. Usually this dinner ends in sobs and crying because it is the last event of the weekend. But due to the restaurant being booked all weekend, we had to eat dinner the first day and therefore it had a much more festive feeling (no tears).

Yes there was food, and technically it was a dinner, but I would say within 10 minutes everyone had forgotten the food and instead was walking around 'gan bei-ing' everyone (cheers.)

Yes there was food, and technically it was a dinner, but I would say within 10 minutes everyone had forgotten the food and instead was walking around ‘gan bei-ing’ everyone (cheers.)

Last days a ZAFU

I tired to be more the photographer than participant but everyone kept grabbing me and forcing me to take pictures with them. Okay, "force" is a bit strong as I was more than happy to.

I tried to be more the photographer than participant but everyone kept grabbing me and forcing me to take pictures with them. Okay, “force” is a bit strong as I was more than happy to.

It's never been a secret that I've had a special relationship with "my boys." They have been my protectors and my guardian angels during the past four years. I don't know what I will do without them.

It’s never been a secret that I’ve had a special relationship with “my boys.” They have been my protectors and my guardian angels during the past four years. I don’t know what I will do without them.

There was plenty of beer drinking......

There was plenty of beer drinking……

....which led to situations like this. Almost all of us left covered in beer as they figured out how fun it was to shake a beer bottle then spray it all over everyone.

….which led to shenanigans like this. Almost all of us left covered in beer as they figured out how fun it was to shake a beer bottle then spray it all over everyone.

Of course "my babies" were the last ones left at the party and we sand "yi ran ai ni" together (which is our song as I sang it to them at a christmas party 2 years ago. The song has come to represent the love and bond between all of us.

Of course “my babies” were the last ones left at the party and we sang “yi ran ai ni” together (which is our song as I sang it to them at a christmas party 2 years ago.) The song has come to represent the love and bond between all of us.

After dinner me and Odile went out so I could meet her boyfriend. A little weird that a foreign teacher met her boyfriend? Perhaps, but that's how involved I am in their lives. He came bearing gifts (a bag full of Ferrero Rocher chocolates) and he was even nervous to impress. But by the time we left at 11pm, I gave my official approval but like any good parent I threatened him if he hurt my girl Odile.

After dinner me and Odile went out so I could meet her boyfriend. A little weird that a foreign teacher met her boyfriend? Perhaps, but that’s how involved I am in their lives. He came bearing gifts (a bag full of Ferrero Rocher chocolates) and he was even nervous to impress. But by the time we left at 11pm, I gave my official approval but like any good parent I threatened him if he dare hurt my girl Odile.

 

Saturday Morning

Bright and early I met all the students by the big tree at our school for the official school pictures. Cap and gowns, deans and teachers were all involved. Then, we spent hours walking around and taking other pictures all over the school.

Everyone had the same cap and gowns but each class decided on a matching outfit worn underneath.  One class the girls wore white qipao’s, one they wore blue and white long flowing robes, girls of another class wore red and white traditional robes. Boys chose either flashy western suits, or traditional black suits. It worked out to my advantage as I was going between classes and I could keep an eye on who was where based on their clothes.

First we had to sit for official school photographs. The teachers sat in the front row but it was so hot we hid in the shade while they set up each class (there are 6 classes in total).

First we had to sit for official school photographs. The teachers sat in the front row but it was so hot we hid in the shade while they set up each class (there are 6 classes in total).

 

A few months ago, when I was really sick, my boys took me out to dinner and then a slow walk around campus to help me regain my strength. There was 8 boys all together and they were staggered surrounding me, a few in front, a few next to me, and a few bringing up the rear. I remember passing by a freshman student who called my name and slowly waved with a look of awe on her face as she looked at all the guys. At the time it made me feel like a but of a rock star and after this picture I see what she was so impressed about.

A few months ago, when I was really sick, my boys took me out to dinner and then a slow walk around campus to help me regain my strength. There was 8 boys all together and they were staggered surrounding me, a few in front, a few on either side, and a few bringing up the rear. I remember passing by a freshman student who called my name and slowly waved with a look of awe on her face as she looked at all the guys. At the time it made me feel like a bit of a rock star and after this picture I see what she was so impressed about.

After the official school pictures we went to the library where my "babies" whipped off their gowns to reveal matching qipaos. Everyone looked really sexy which, in a maternal way, I didn't approve.

After the official school pictures we went to the library where my “babies” whipped off their gowns to reveal matching qipaos. Everyone looked really sexy which, in a maternal way, I didn’t approve.

Me and Class 106.

Me and Class 106.

I tired to not be in every picture, but they kept dragging me into them, despite my protests. In this picture we are spelling out 106, their class number. As the odd duck, I'm in the middle of the 0.

In this picture we are spelling out 106, their class number. As the odd duck, I’m in the middle of the 0.

In class 5 the girls wore these old clothes which led them to do a lot of traditional poses and act out dramatic stories. I think we called this one "American travels back in time to ancient China."

In class 105 the girls wore these traditional clothes which led them to do a lot of poses and act out dramatic stories. I think we called this one “American travels back in time to ancient China.”

Each class had an "official" photographer (a student from another major with a nice camera and a free afternoon) but there were dozens of cameras.

Each class had an “official” photographer (a student from another major with a nice camera and a free afternoon) but there were dozens of cameras.

Class 105. In the middle is Lindy, the monitor (or class leader).

Class 105. In the middle is Lindy, the monitor (or class leader). He’s truly the leader of the class.

By the time we took this photo, at the front gate of the school, we had all been out in the hot sun for 4+ hours. We limped home exhausted with plans to meet the next day.

By the time we took this photo, at the front gate of the school, we had all been out in the hot sun for 4+ hours. We limped home exhausted with plans to meet the next day.

 

Sunday Night

Sunday morning the students had to do some work, a thesis defense, but they finished by noon and we made plans to have one last dinner together. I was actually worried about this as my two favorite classes were having dinner the same time and I wondered how I could participate in both.

But I needn’t worry because they actually considered me when making plans. They decided to have it at the same time, in the same restaurant with rooms right next to each other so I, and they, could go freely between them.

I walked around for the first hour or so with a pair of chopsticks eating and talking with everyone. And then, as everyone got drunker and drunker, things got serious. One class decided to pretend they were first year students and introduce themselves for the first time, while the other class went around one-by-one and told each other their plans (which quickly morphed into heartfelt speeches.)

A party ain't a party without  a little bravado beer drinking between the boys.

A party ain’t a party without a little bravado beer drinking between the boys.

Even girls who don't drink much decided if they were to ever get drunk, now is a good time. But as this was the past dinner together, the whole arty had a more somber feel and no one got wild.

Even girls who don’t drink much decided if they were to ever get drunk, now was a good time. But as this was the last dinner together, the whole party had a more somber feel and no one got wild.

Before the tears came lot of laughing.

Before the tears came lot of laughing.

A lot went down in those small wooden rooms. A lot of secrets were told and tears were shed, but I’ll keep that between us for now. Let’s just say the memories from those dinners will keep me warm on a cold, lonely night.

Me and Oak.

Me and Oak.

At the end of dinner, as everyone walked away arm in arm, I stayed with the 5 who were responsible for paying (though the refused my money I tried to put in.) They walked me to the corner where I went to the left and they went to the right. They stood there, and told me to go first. I walked backwards, waving and throwing kisses and then, when I almost walked into a parked car, I turned around to pay attention to the road.

“Becky!” I heard one of them yell. I stopped and turned around to look at them. In unison they yelled out, “WE LOVE YOU!”

What an ending.

 

 


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