When the girls and I walked back from school this afternoon, the stage in the park was occupied, and the stands were filled with students. Thank goodness we saw our waiban, Tian, who could explain what was going on – the speakers were representatives of Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, and soon there would be dances and music of those countries to kick off a week-long celebration of Southeast Asia Week.
After sitting through 40 minutes of speeches given in the representative’s native language, and then translated into Chinese and then translated again into English, the first act took the stage. I was looking forward to a nice folk dance indigenous to Thailand, when suddenly blasted through the loudspeakers I hear “S-I-A-M” to a hip-hop beat. The dancers, wearing black leotards, leggings, and high heels, with gold cloth tied at the waist and gold headbands, began a dance that could easily have been choreographed by Paula Abdul for the Laker Girls! OK, surely the second act will be endearing folk songs. Well, the singer looked like he stepped right out of the Seattle grunge scene, and sang in a falsetto worthy of Tiny Tim, a pop song so full of anguished emotion that it could only be about unrequited love! Sigh. Next came a “comedy” act – two skinny guys in red bloomers doing fake wrestling moves. But the girls were mesmerized by it all!
By this time, we were sitting on the front row with Tian, who was supposed to be working since the Office of International Cooperation and Exchange was co-sponsoring the event with the Department of Southeast Asian Studies. But the band from Tian’s office seemed more interested in thoroughly spoiling the girls! They were given cakes and oranges and bananas and more cakes. Tian and his friends and co-workers took turns holding the girls and taking their pictures. No way could I talk them into leaving at that point!
The last few acts were indeed fairly traditional folk dances of the Philippines and Thailand, which I enjoyed very much. Zoe paid close attention to the dances from the Philippines – she has acquired an interest in the Philippines since there is a large group of Filipino 6th-graders living in the hotel near our apartment (they are here for 3 months to learn Chinese – can you imagine sending your 6th-grader to China for 3 months?!). It was interesting, too, that one of the representatives from the Philippines asked whether the girls were from the Philippines, since she said Zoe in particular looked Filipino (Zoe gets that a lot – both girls are from a province in China that has a majority population of China’s minority peoples, but from appearance it seems more likely that Zoe is a member of one of those groups than Maya.).
The last act was a hoot -- again, it was hip-hop, which I understand is very popular in China. But this song was in English. I'm not sure how many people understood the lyrics, though, since the repeated refrain was about "don't give me your sh**." Hmm, I wonder which country they were supposed to represent?! So here we have all these important dignitaries, seated at a long, beautifully decorated table in front of the stage, listening to this scatalogical performance! I wonder which University administrator approved this act! I'm pretty sure my girls were oblivious, too, but with my luck I'll start hearing them singing that refrain any day now . . . .
Tian tells us that there will be performances from various Southeast Asian countries on the stage in the park all week. So it looks like our walks home from school will be most entertaining for the next few days!