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In dynastic times, strange events like massive earthquakes, comets in the sky, or the appearance of legendary animals in unusual places usually were interpreted as harbingers of significant change (usually a transition from one dynasty to the next). Having now occupied a fully Chinese state of mind (I kid!), I can’t help but wonder what changes are in store for Huashan High School and myself after seeing a gloomy, basketball playing gorilla moping at the front gates…

But that’s not the only thing. Rumor has it that some mutated, skinny, Asian Santa has been sighted in the hallowed hallways of Huashan. Not only that, apparently he’s also quite a hit with the ladies.

Alright, I’ll admit it just for the sake of those without eagle eyes and super deductive skills, that Santa is me. Santa makes a special appearance at our Christmas Party after mean Mr. Vincent berates the students for believing in such a stupid concept as Santa and threatens them with a test. As Vincent prepares to pass out said test, he suddenly gets sick, doubles over, then runs hacking and coughing to the bathroom. Mysteriously, about two minutes later, a jolly Santa Claus appears in the classroom, vanquishing any doubts on the minds of the kids. Then after hosting a fun game and introducing them to the timeless classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Santa sneaks out with a hearty ho ho ho. Vincent then returns, furious that the students dare watch a movie while he was getting treated at the clinic. It’s great stuff.

While the students are watching the movie, Santa offers to reproduce the distinctly American cultural experience of “getting a picture with Santa at the mall” that we Americans all went through as a child but that these students, already teenagers, missed out on. Of course, rather than having my students sit on my lap, which is way too inappropriate in my opinion, I end up squatting in front of a group of friends as they poke me and pull on my hat and beard.

But that’s not all! The third offbeat omen occurred during one class where I had just left the room as Santa Claus and began walking down the hallway to the room where I change back into my normal out fit. After going through the doorway with my bag of treats and my camera tripod, I glanced down the corridor to see none other than a fully camouflaged PLA soldier wielding a rather intimidating sub-machine gun. Skinny-Asian-Santa-Claus-with-Red-Jogging-Pants meets SMG-toting-PLA-soldier in elite boarding school hallway has to be the awesomest accidental encounter of random elements on the far side of the Earth I’ve ever had the luck to take part of. The encounter is not only cool for the thrilling randomness of it all, but also for what it could have been. I started slowly walking down the hallway, eying this fellow with as much incredulity as him (after all, he was seeing this skinny punk dressed up in red novelty clothes wearing a fake beard and carrying a black garbage bag and a camera tripod), and in my head, the Neo-Morpheus training scene fight music started playing – wiki-wooow – and as the soldier opened rapid-fire on the impostor, skinny Santa started dodging bullets and carrying out crazy kung fu with his tripod-cum-samurai-staff. Ah, I should’ve been a screenplay writer.

Well, anyways the guy was standing in a dark part of the hallway and it turned out that he was just a maintenance guy; his SMG was actually an rather large, SMG-shaped industrial drill and in China, working class folks often buy military fatigues from surplus stores because they’re cheap and very warm. But for a split second, it was sheer awesome.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Xinjiang to all those readers out there in the intertubes!

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