Monday, November 3, 2008

great expectations

One week ago our good friend, Vince, walked up to me at English Corner (a time when Chinese students practice English) with a purpose in his eyes.

"Jon, I will be competing in the final round of the Karaoke Competition this Thursday," he said succinctly.

"No way! I'd love to come and watch, "I said with genuine excitement. What a great opportunity to support my good buddy, I thought. I should have seen the next part a mile away.

"You will also perform something," asked Vince, at least I think he meant it to come out in the form of a question, but he couldn't hide his intentions. He expected me to perform. Later he sounded flabbergasted that I would only perform one song.

"I'm afraid the students expect much more from you," he said.

It always happens this way, and the IECS team has begun to expect it. No matter what they say, the Chinese always expect more from us. For example, a week and a half ago we were all asked to attend a pumpkin carving event. I imagined several tables set up with pumpkins where everyone could carve at their own leisure. Of course not. We entered a class room packed with freshman students, each armed with a cell phone camera held upright in our direction. Of course, they want us to lead this and sing songs and answer questions and carve pumpkins in front of students, not for. Always perform. Always in the heat of the lime light. "Have a try," is a popular way for Chinese people to request our performance. At first, to be honest, this was quite an annoyance. No longer could we attend an event and enjoy it from the background. But now that we're used it, we have embraced it, and we just expect to be put on the spot. Now we just have fun with it.

When the Karaoke Competition rolled around this past Thursday, Ryan and I prepared to perform two songs; Ryan would perform "Man in the Mirror" by the king of pop and we would sing "Wonderwall" together (maybe the only crowd-pleasing song I know on the guitar). We were given front row seats at the Competition, an event with an attendance of well over 300. And of course, I was also randomly asked to stand up and say something in English about one of the performances. I said something about the girls being beautiful and they all cheered. Ryan's "Man in the Mirror" was a huge hit; despite his lack of knowledge of the song, he still hit the chorus spot on. And Tim accompanied Ryan and me for "Wonderwall." We gave the camera to our friend Jack, who not only took video of the performance, but continually snapped pictures during the video. Enjoy.

The next night, on Halloween, we hosted a movie night on our campus. While debating for about a week on what route to take with the movie choice (It was either Truman Show for its accessibility and good message or Poltergeist because the movie night took place on Halloween or Star Wars... because it's Star Wars), we settled on Poltergeist, and it was a huge hit. About 400 students packed out the stadium-seating classroom, and nearly every one of them screamed at every scary scene (and repeated the s*** word every time it came up in the movie). It was like watching a scary movie with 400 Mark Herritts, which is as close to heaven as I might get on Earth. It's great to see how much the students enjoy our presence on campus, and relationships are flourishing because of it.

Yesterday Vince invited Ryan and I to the park to join him and his friend, Lily. I expected a quiet afternoon in the sun, but when I arrived on campus to meet Vince, there were ten of my students waiting to join us (all girls but one). Of course, I thought to myself, why didn't I expect this? We welcomed the inclusion of my students and had a great afternoon. At one point we encountered a pseudo-toboggan ride on top of a hill, the track made out of Sesame Street arms. 5 yuan a pop? Thanks, I'll have one! Again, the students proved themselves to be as innocent as 12 year olds, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Be sure to be thinking about them, just as we have been.

Vince, Ryan and I were chatting by our bus stop the other day about life without hope. Vince says he's leading one. He said there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Somehow, as Vince tends to do, a few minutes later he switched conversation gears and got excited about what it means to give one's life away.

"We were created to help others," he said as he looked down at the pavement, in deep thought, "The more we give ourselves away, the more we will get."

I think he's getting somewhere, and I hope he gets there. Be thinking about him.


Linda Allison said...

Hey rock star, don't forget the little people...

Ryan said...

Nice performance...I guess a one man re-creation of Take On Me was not an should sponsor a talent show. I would like to leave a Star Wars quote for each post you and tim each write. You'll never be able to guess what is coming next.

“This is some rescue. You came in here and you didn’t have a plan for getting out?”
“He’s the brains, sweetheart!”

Anonymous said...

Hey Jon!

I had to suppress my laughter at the office when I read the part about the S-word and Mark!

I can't wait to watch the videos at home. It's okay that I'm doing this at work, because they have me researching blogs.

I also just found the envelope you had sent me on the floor of my room... thanks room mates. Who do I make the checks out to?

-Billy C.

Kristin said...


I am loving the blog! Thought this might be of interest to you guys:


Janet Phillips said...

Your rock Jon!

Peter Phillips said...

that line about 400 mark herritts cracked me up

Tim and Jon's friend. said...

...but there were only 300 Chinese freshmen in the room.