As our English Camp was coming to an end we had an evening of ‘panel discussion’. This meant the students could anonymously write down any question and we would answer it. All of us answered one question. The team did great and we all had a lot of fun. Because I did a class on ‘Humour’ a question directed to me was, “Could Mr. Brian tell us something funny about pets.” Something must have been lost in translation. I declined. I left all my pet jokes at home. Instead of pet humour I got to field this one: “What is true love and if you love someone, should you let them know?” I told them I once let a girl know that I liked her by dropping a note on her desk that along with my declaration said, “do you like me? please check yes or no”, they all laughed when it was translated. My translator may not have told them it was something I did in grade school.
I definitely learned that translation is not word for word. I would say something short and Walter, Dr. Wan our guide and translator, would then turn it in to Mandarin and speak a long, long time. I would say something serious or at least not laugh worthy and I would get a roar of laughter from the translated version. Go figure. Jerry Lewis has France, I have Shantou, China. I’m HUGE in Shantou.
The next day was ‘we’re really leaving soon’ day. Between every class we lined up with students in every possible combination to have our pictures taken. It was wild. We were treated like celebrities. Everyone wanted a photo, an autograph or both. Another TV crew came by. We had already had newspaper and TV people doing stories and now another TV crew came by; we were definitely the flavour of the month. I was interviewed, carefully choosing my words, knowing whatever I said would bet subtitled for the local news. I never saw it on the TV but for the moment I was a cool, international celebrity.
The morning before our last, a group of us climbed a graveyard mountain behind the school. Some of our students led us back past a temple and up a path. People continued burying their dead here, despite it being against the rules. Rather than gravestones like we are used to each grave was marked by a little cement seat that you expected the dead to rise up out of the ground and sit down and enjoy the view. On the way we passed a little farm house with the scrawniest chickens I’ve ever seen and a bunch of newborn puppies. Which one were for eating? Both. Neither. I don’t know. Going up the mountain was beautiful and I felt like I was in a part of China I hadn’t seen yet.
On the way up, I was bitten, stung and/or oozed on by some bug that burned for a good long while. The climb was great though and I’m glad I got to go, even at 5:30 a.m. On the way back down, as we came back on to the campus, we passed some older people out doing Tai Chi. I said, “Zow!” or “Good morning!” to them. They laughed at me. When I asked on of our students why I was laughed at yet again he told me it was too early to say, “Zow!” That early in the morning required another greeting. I sighed. Multiculturalism is tougher than it looks.