October 30, 2007
YMCA, Invisible Children, and Frogger
Explaining your own culture can be hard. Unit 9 of our book had me trying to explain fads. We usually can’t explain fads even when we find ourselves in the midst of them! The 1950's Hula-Hoop went well; they got the idea through a picture and my ever-so-graceful example from the front of the room. Next were the Beatles. I burned a CD and played some of the classics. This was rather disappointing- I don't think my students were that impressed. They kept thinking it was country music, and I had to explain that they were rock ‘n’ roll… one of the first to start the pop category. C’mon, they were a boy band, a teen sensation- Beatlesmania, with some of the most recognizable songs ever! I got polite smiles in return; it was time to move on.
The next fad was Disco and I was ready with a sure Chinese crowd pleaser. I don’t claim to have a formula for the Chinese people’s taste, but this I know- take simple English lyrics, pair it with cheesy movements, and add a splash of femininity…you’ve got a winner. And so, I chose to teach my students the YMCA. After 3 minutes, I knew we had a hit. My students gleefully made letters with their arms, and clapped until it was time to throw their arms into a ‘Y’ again. Walking away during our 5-minute break I couldn't help but think, “Why do we think it’s such a great song? People play this at their wedding receptions?!”
Explaining a Rubik’s Cube without one on-hand was daunting. The little thumbnail picture in the book didn’t help much, either. Finally, one of the girls piped-up with a Chinese equivalent and I heard lots of “Ah, yes, I see…very difficult toy”
The last fad the book mentioned was Madonna. I don’t know about you, but I wondered- should I put an end date to Madonna? Isn’t part of her legacy that she is never really done? Doesn’t she always come out with something new, sending record sales soaring decade after decade? I played “Material Girl” and silently sang along. I couldn’t stop her arrow on our timeline, I just kept it pointing into the future. Does that mark that I’m a child of the 80’s? Probably.
So the fads lesson was yesterday, but we moved on. (Pun intended.) Today we talked about social movements and I used this as an opportunity to show the Invisible Children DVD. This movie rocked my students this year, much more than last year. There was sobbing all around the room- it’s a compassionate and empathetic group. When the video ended, we sat in silence for a while. I asked if anyone would like to Think for the children in Africa. Quickly, Anna stood to her feet. Fervently and through tears, she talked to the Father. I don’t know everything she said in Mandarin, but I knew that she wanted the children to be safe and for America to help stop the war. We ended the class in agreement.
In final news, I was almost killed today on my bike ride home. This is nothing new. I live in a city of 17 million people. Many of them truly don’t know how to drive. Riding my little one-speed pink bike in Beijing is like playing the old video game Frogger, circa the Pac-Man era. The sole goal of it all is to just cross the street without the cars/motorcycles/wood logs hitting you. And it’s always the last second dodge that saves your life. I’m alive today, but I could never get a very good score on Frogger.