Even with the launch of my preschool rock star career, big-budget movie premier, and appearances on the sides of buses and shopping mall video billboards, I still have some catching up to do on my brother-in-law, but he better watch out.
The Chinese teachers took these on my phone during class when we were practicing for the preschool’s New Year’s show (I’m a preschool rock star in China). Ages 4-5 and 5-6, each video is a different class. (China users will need a VPN to see them, except for this one that made it to Youku.)
To really get a feel for the actual experience, turn your speakers all the way up and watch these videos on repeat. For three hours straight. Every morning. For a month.
We Wish You a Merry Chinese Preschool Christmas
We Wish You a Merry Chinese Preschool Christmas AGAIN
We Wish You a Merry Chinese Preschool Christmas YET AGAIN
My five-year-old niece in Canada started preschool two days a week when she was four. What’s often translated as “preschool” (幼儿园) in China starts when kids are two or three years old, all day five days a week. And if there’s a part-time foreign monkeyteachernative-English-speaking Caucasian, then it’s a “bilingual” preschool, and there better be an English part to the New Year’s show. Which is why crowds of Chinese three-year-olds yell We Wish You a Merry Christmas at me most mornings in December. :)
It’s fun when you can get a joke in another language, even if it is middle school potty humour. I’ve come across this joke before, and it’s a funny demonstration of the pronunciation differences between Chinese and English.
The dialogue in English and Chinese (with mouseover pinyin) is below the video clip:
Kid: [Mouth] 猫屎！ Cat poo! Teacher:对！ Correct! Kid: [Earth] 耳屎！ Earwax! Teacher:好！ Good! Kid: [Bees] 鼻屎！ Snot! Teacher:最后一个！ Last one! Kid: [Last] 拉屎！ Go poo! Teacher:全答对了！ 拉完屎之后呢……？ All answered correctly! And after going poo…? Kid: [Yes] 爷死！ Grandpa dies! Kid: [Nice] 奶死！ Grandma dies! Teacher: OK! Kid: [Bus] 爸死！ Dad dies! Teacher:哦，好！ Oh, great! Kid: [Knees] 你死！ You die! Teacher:嗯 Mmm-hmm. Kid: [Was] 我死！ I die! Teacher:好！ Kid: [Does] 都死！ All die! Teacher:都死之后？ After everybody dies? Kid: [One dollar] 完蛋了！ (We’re) doomed! [lit. "The egg is done"; fig. "We're done for/doomed/finished/toast".] Teacher:全答对了！ All answered correctly!
Chinese ways of showing interest, care or concern for someone often take the form of unsolicited advice about things foreigners consider very personal, usually with humourous (if the foreigners are well-adjusted) or tearful (if they’re not) results. Here’s what one of my bald coworkers received in a Chinese Valentine’s Day card from one of our students:
I had an experience of touching your head. It was not slipped as I imagined. but it was nice. At last, I have a suggestion: lose some weight! You’ll more handsome, no the most handsome if you lose your weight!
Have a baby soon.
For more about this quirky (to us) Chinese way of showing interest, care or concern see:
Have we ever seen this woman before? Nope. And did she just come up, start touching our kid’s face and try to make her smile? Of course!
This is routine whenever we take Lilia out for walks. A friendly stranger or two (or ten) will often stop to try and make her smile, and that often involves touching. Younger people like the girl in these photos tend to be gentler than middle-aged and older women, at least in our experience. We have some neighbourhood committee ladies who talk so loud when they’re trying to get a reaction out of Lilia that they make her scared; they pretty much yell in her face, but not intentionally — that’s just how they talk all day long. Those kinds of folks also tend to play a little rougher with the way the pinch legs and touch cheeks.
Obviously we don’t let the general public manhandle our daughter, but since it’s so expected that any friendly person can play with a stranger’s baby, and since “foreign dolls” (洋娃娃) are such an attraction, we try to be as accommodating as we can while still protecting Lilia. As you can see, she likes it sometimes.
I’ve only had to directly physically block someone’s hand once, when a woman who honestly looked like a KTV prostitute tried to stick her finger in Lilia’s mouth on the Beijing subway. People don’t understand when you bat their fingers away, but there’s no way I’m letting random people stick there fingers in our daughter’s mouth, regardless of whether or not they’re dressed like a xiǎojiě (小姐)! Same goes for anyone who seems like they might be too rough. I use as much finesse and tact as I can, of course (we indirectly block people all the time), but obviously we’re willing to cause offense if we have to to protect our daughter. Those kinds of situations are very rare, however, and most people are great, wanting to coo over a baby like people do anywhere… just maybe a little more so.
One of my bathhouse buddies got engaged the day before his birthday, which happens to be Halloween. So for his birthday/engagement party/Halloween we carved Chinese love pumpkins! (and one apple):
The 双喜/喜子 (“double happiness”) one took forEVer. If you’re really sharp, you’ll notice where we messed it up (see real examples here). Since they just got engaged I thought it’d be nice to give them a Chinese love pumpkin, even if I left out a couple strokes. Someone else carved the smaller pumpkin, which says “爱” (love). These little Chinese pumpkins are so hard they’d bounce, not splat. When you flick them with your finger they go “tok tok tok.”
And for the record, Halloween is not All Saints’ Day, no matter what all my students’ Chinese-English dictionaries say (some online ones make this mistake, too). Halloween is the night before All Saints’ Day: 万圣节前夕 wànshèngjié qiánxī (“All Saints’ Day Eve”). So annoying. And if you’re curious, Jack-o-lantern in Chinese is “pumpkin lantern”: 南瓜灯 nánguā dēng.
P.S. – About the title: that’s “Chinese love-pumpkins” as in a kind of pumpkin (adj. n.), not “Chinese love pumpkins” meaning what Chinese people love (subj. v. obj.). I’m not so sure they feel one way or the other about pumpkins…
I walk into our old neighbourhood to get my bike out of the bike park where it’s been stored the last eight months, and Dàniáng is sitting outside our old stairwell just like she always does. The Chinese gourd vines she’s planted cover the entrance and reach up to the third floor. She doesn’t recognize me until I smile and wave.
“Oh, it’s you! You’ve come back!”
“Yeah, we’ve come back!”
“Ha, at first I didn’t recognize you; you have a beard now, and also foreigners all look the same.”