Wednesday, November 24, 2010

music and games

Aside from watching movies purchased from the local DVD shop, one of my favorite ways to relax after a day of teaching is to take out the guitar I bought near the music school (for 2100 yuan) and play three or four songs. It's mostly been a private pastime, aside from the one or two times I've entertained a visiting friend, but this changed a bit over the last week. Last Friday I thought it would be fun to bring my guitar to English Corner and teach some songs to my students, which ended up being a lot of fun, despite my being a little nervous about performing in front of such a large crowd. I played some of my favorite tunes (or at least favorite ones to play: The Magnetic Fields's "All My Little Words," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and the Violent Femmes's "American Music," to name three) but also took some requests, including "Jingle Bells" (both the traditional and the "Batman Smells" version theyloved the latter) and "Country Roads" (which I'd never played before but was able to quickly figure out, thanks to a student who helped me find the lyrics on his phone). One of the best moments was when I began to pick the tab for a song I've been teaching myself from the Chinese film Perhaps Love; I could not sing it myself, since the lyrics are in Chinese, but the majority of my students knew the song well and all joined in chorus as I played. Overall, the night was a big hit, and judging by what I've heard from students since, word seems to be getting around campus about my guitar playing.

Coincidentally, the following evening I had another chance to play guitar in front of a crowd when a colleague (an older gentleman from England) and I visited a local bar for pizza and drinks. In the corner of the bar was a spotlighted stage, complete with guitar and microphone, occasionally used by the owner to entertain his guests. Upon hearing that I play guitar, too, the owner invited me to play myself; I agreed and sang two songs from the previous evening, which was greeted with a lot of clapping and cheers from the happy Chinese crowd. (The fact that the bar has few American visitors probably had something to do with the enthusiasm.) Not having performed in front of so many people since my days in summer creative dramatics as a teen, these two nights were very invigorating for me.

I've also had the chance to play some games with my students this past week. On Monday's English Corner only five students showed up, so I introduced them to "Apples to Apples." Unlike "mafia," they had never heard of this game before, but they all got the hang of it immediately and had a blast. (One of my students clearly understood the humor of the game when she put "Jeremy," a create-your-own card I'd made, for the adjective "Clueless.") Only one of my students seemed to grow increasingly disappointed due to never having any of her cards selected, so I "cheated" a little during the last round and kept an eye on her card as I mixed them, then selected it after I laid them out on the table, which ended up being the best choice anyway ("Midlife Crisis" for "Crazy"). Fortunately, this seemed to do the trick, and she was happily saying "I won, too!" for the rest of the night, despite the fact that she still had less cards selected than the rest of us. Ultimately, the game was a wonderful way to introduce some vocabulary to my students; I only wish it was possible to play it in my classes, but I'm afraid it would be too difficult to manage in a large group setting.

After I teach my classes today, I will be having dinner with some students who kindly offered to take me out for Thanksgiving. I will bring my camera and hope to take some pictures, which I'll post here on a later date. In honor of the holiday, I've been showing my students this week how to draw turkeys by tracing their hand and then adding eyes and feet to the drawing. Despite their being in graduate school, most of my students marvel like children at this demonstration as if it were a magic trick, so it's been a good way to get some discussion going on Thanksgiving traditions, among other topics. I'd like to have similar success with this activity when I use it for the children I tutor this weekend; maybe drawing a picture will help to calm them down for once. Here's hoping.

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