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End of HBA: English, Karaoke, and Cupping

August 14, 2010

An odd post title, I know. Yesterday was full of exciting new experiences. We had our final exam in the morning, then had a lovely little graduation ceremony. We even got fancy certificates. Even though I failed the HSK, I graduated from HBA! (I found out a couple days ago that yes, I did indeed fail the HSK. Damn listening section did me in.)

Then, the course head told us that the language pledge was officially over! We headed off to a big banquet at the Four Seasons. But there was a catch: all the teachers had to speak English!

Me with Hu laoshi (left), who was also one of my teachers in first year Chinese at Harvard, and Bao laoshi (right), at the Banquet.

Granted, most of the teachers didn’t keep the “English pledge,” but it was really fun hearing them speak even a little English. Their English was so cute! I got to learn a bunch of their English names, most of which fit them very well! Also, there were pictures galore. I must have been in 70-some pictures by the end of the two hours.

It was so funny being on the other side – having the teachers not understand what I was saying, having to explain new words or slang to them. Fascinating experience. Trying to explain “political correctness” to a couple of them was probably the toughest. (In England, you can’t say, “black people dance well,” my friend Grace tried to explain. She received blank stares. )

Many of the teachers got really emotional about saying goodbye. It was so sweet! They were really all SO wonderful, and I do feel like they’ve all become my friends over the course of the summer. I’ll miss them. A few of the started crying. Aww! I gave many hugs to comfort them.

After a relaxing afternoon, I met back up with a bunch of second year students and teachers to head to Karaoke!

Most karaoke in the US happens in regular bars that hold a karaoke night. There’s one machine, one TV that displays lyircs, a few books of songs circling the bar, and usually a contest. You can ignore it if you want. If you sing, you sing for the whole bar.

Asian style karaoke, popular in Japan, Korea, and China, is very different. You go in with a group. You rent a private room (it’s all private rooms, no big central space). They can fit 6 or so on the small side, 15+ on the large side. There are couches, tables, and big-screen TVs. All the karaoke tracks have video – usually the music video at nice places, stock footage at cheap places. You order food and drinks to be brought to your room.

Karaoke at one of Beijing's thousands of popular "KTV" karaoke bars.

I love this style of karaoke. It’s so fun, and people don’t get so nervous to sing because they’re just singing for their friends. Plus, there are multiple mics (each of our two rooms had 4 or 5, I think), so most songs get multiple people singing. For being so nervous to speak English to us, my teachers were sure not nervous about singing in front of us! Even the tone-deaf ones (I won’t mention any names…)

There was a great moment when one of my classmates from Yale, a lacrosse jock, sang “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and hit all the high notes. He was really good, actually! When I complimented him profusely after the song, he told me he was giving up lacrosse to pursue his passion for music! Loved that.

I sang “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys, a song I sang with my college a capplla group, the Veritones (you can see me sing it on YouTube), which went over really well except for the fact that I couldn’t stop laughing at the TV. They didn’t have the music video, so they just played stock footage. But the stock footage was of this not terribly attractive blonde woman wiggling around and dancing in various settings. Really hilarious. I also sang “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Belted all the high notes.  Win.

After karaoke, most people were heading to a club, but I peeled off with my friends Grace and Phillip to a massage parlor near campus. We all had hour-long massages, and we were in the same room next to each other, which was super fun.

We all chatted with the masseuses, of course who were quite entertaining. One of them was quite a player who argued that 9 months is the maximum time frame you can be attracted to someone of the opposite sex. I vehemently disagreed. And all in Chinese!

Then, we decided at the last minute to try cupping.

My back minutes after trying fire cupping therapy

They take glass cups, light fire inside of them, then stick the cups on your back, and the cups suck up your skin into them. a It kinda felt like an octopus, as Phillip put it. For the first 5 minutes, my masseuse would put the cups on my very briefly, then pull them off again. For the last five minutes, he stuck a bunch on my back and left them there for five minutes. When he pulled them back off, it was a reeeeeallly good feeling, the feeling of tension being released.

Such a weird experience! I liked it! I don’t know if I’ll do again – I mean, look at my back! Today, all those red marks are purple bruises.

Well, after some hearty adventure and serious Chinese cramming in Beijing, I’m heading to Shanghai tonight, on an overnight train! I’m extremely excited to start my new life with Rick in the New York of China. Next blog post will be from Shanghai!

Adios, Beijing!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 2, 2010 10:47 am

    me and my girlfriend would always frequent karaoke bars because we love to sing ,-;

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