Sunday, December 13, 2009

Talent Shows, Chinese Style

This past week we helped host a 5-day training seminar for over 40 NGO workers from organizations throughout China. The workshops were actually some of the most impressive I've seen since I've been here, as there was a lot of role playing, hands-on observation of projects, and discussion of the fact that any NGO has to cooperate extensively with the local government from the idea phase, throughout implementation, and all the way through to project conclusion. In fact, it is impossible to carry out any poverty alleviation or rural development project without approval and oversight from the local party officials.

Last night, at the conclusion of the training seminar, there was a "talent show," which proved to be far more entertaining to me than any of the hours-long info sessions in Chinese that I attended. I honestly felt like I was at a 6 year old's birthday party. First of all, anything anyone did was basically terrible--at least 5 people went up in front of everyone, sang in an awful voice, forgot the lyrics after about 8 lines, and promptly laughed and went back to his or her seat. If the performers didn't sing, they instead did a dance which largely resembled something I might have done in a dance recital when I was 5. Second, everyone there would literally drag individuals up to the front of the room and force them to "perform," despite their protests. Once up there, however, the performer would get into it and everyone in the audience would clap and sing loudly along with them. Finally, I, of course, was made to perform because 90% of the people there had never interacted with an actual foreigner before and wanted me to do something in English. My colleague actually suggested I give them a proper, native-English-speaker rendition of the ABCs. I am not even kidding. Instead, I went up there and was like "OK, I picked a song that I think some of you may know the words to and can sing along with me." And then I sung Happy Birthday. Thus making it seem even more like a birthday party for my 4 year old nephew.

All in all, however, it was good for a laugh and did make me appreciate that Chinese people love any opportunity to get together with friends, and don't need any music, alcoholic drinks (though they love those too), or fancy venues to have a good time.

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