I wanted to reassure everyone that I have been properly honored and celebrated on my 27th birthday. Like Christmas this past year, another holiday (is it egotistical of me to refer to my birthday as “holiday?”) has been experienced apart from many I love. However, this, er, holiday was in fact spent with many people I love…just a different community of loved ones.
It was a whole birthday weekend extravaganza. On Friday evening I went to KTV with my sophomore students, as well as Will and John (a former teacher from Canada visiting for a few days). This wasn’t actually a birthday party for me, but I suppose the togetherness and the timing made me attribute it to myself (there’s that ego again). We had fun, singing and dancing and trying to solve a riddle one student presented.
What was really special, however, is the connectedness I’m increasingly feeling with this group, something that seemed a bit lacking last term. More students are gaining the confidence to talk with me, showing an increased comfort around me. Often students who don’t feel their English is great will defer to others and depend on their translation to interact with me, thinking they’ll look foolish if they can’t keep up with me in conversation. But the students just seem a bit less hindered by such fears compared with last term. I’ve enjoyed some special conversations lately with these students, upon which I’ll probably elaborate in a later post.
On Sunday afternoon I had a nice birthday lunch with my teacher friends. Then on Sunday evening, my freshman students took me out for a birthday dinner (this WAS an official party for me). They even had a huge cake with “2” and “7” candles for me to blow out. We ate cake (first) then dinner, before I gave a birthday speech to them, thanking them and expressing the joy of sharing my birthday with them.
And I really wouldn’t have had it any other way. These students are a light to me, showing the beauty of embracing, hospitable, and unconditional love (even the ones I gave low grades to last term still seem to cherish me). They regularly go out of their way to make sure I’m happy, taken care of, and appreciated. I will never forget this birthday, partly because of its uniqueness and partly because of those with whom I shared it.
One another holiday-related note. As it is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been wearing a goofy, leprechaun-looking hat today that my mom sent me in a birthday/care package. Both in class and walking across campus, I’ve gotten, as expected, laugher and puzzled looks. I just smile with a knowing look that says, “yep…it’s weird.”
Though I didn’t initially know how strange it is. Apparently, in China, when a man wears a green hat, it means his wife is cheating on him. I guess I don’t see a lot of green hats in China. A couple students seemed more concerned than amused, trying to warn me about the meaning. I just laughed and told them I wasn’t concerned, that it’s an Irish and American thing, and that it’s good for students to be exposed to other customs and be reminded (in a silly way) that there are other non-Chinese ways of seeing the world (which as I’ve noted before, they struggle with here, just like I do as an American).
I lightheartedly suggested to one concerned student that she relax and get out of her Chinese box. I’m usually not THAT direct about challenging students' often-limited worldviews; but she’s a friend, so I got away with it.