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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guide Alice

The day after meeting our tutors—and actually after my first tutoring session come to think of it, my classmate Will approached me with a most interesting proposition. Will is one of our group’s coolest characters. Coming from deep within Mississippi, equipped with an extreme Mississippi accent, Will is one of our most knowledgeable classmates and is adept with computer processes, while at the same time being just a normal college student. I had just returned to my room, when Will and Garrett approached discussing a most interesting opportunity which had arose as a result of going to dinner with their tutors.

According to their 辅导, a single student was in need of some American fellow students who could serve as her support during the performance. Will was especially ecstatic, more so than I really remember ever seeing him, being a rather source of calm within most settings. As they described the “play” to me, I began to comprehend it as more of a speech contest than any sort of theatrical performance.

Hosted by the Tourism Department, this event pitted six sophomore students against one another in various talent performances, dance competitions, and the most important tour speech competition. Will’s tutor turned out to be the host of the entire event and knew a girl looking for additional props to her act: a set of 老外 American tourists. Will asked me if I was interested, since Garrett really did not want to sacrifice his Friday evening showcasing his American-ness in front of a small crowd of upward of 2000 people; I told Will that I was in.

That Thursday, June 6, we met up outside of our classroom to meet our tour guide and practice the skit. Guide Alice was already waiting when we arrived. Besides Will and I, Frank, Lizzy, and Maddi also joined us. Ready to begin the preparation, Guide Alice began her speech: a complex detailing of the wildlife and customs of Hawaii. Using perfect, albeit unnatural, English, Guide Alice walked us through the motions we would need to practice along with our different lines. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my past Language Festival competition-thing back at St. Paul’s when we performed my original masterpiece “El Hobra del Teatro.” While Guide Alice’s performance lacked my murder mystery vibe, didn’t even have Scooby Doo or Sherlock Holmes, and incorporated a lot less singing, Guide Alice’s speech made us excited for the following evening adventure. 2000 people was still a lot of people, even if it was in China.

On the night of the event, we each began trying to dress up in the most touristy, American outfits we could assemble together. I equipped myself with a motley, blue plaid pair of golfing shorts, and a sentimentally excellent Captain America t-shirt. We departed the dorm wearing different assortments of bathing suits until we arrived at the site of the competition. An hour early, we were able to view the rows of seats and the large stage in the front decorated ornately. Will’s tutor stood in the center of two formally dressed girls and began practicing his master of ceremonies’ lines.

We sat and awaited our practice round, when Guide Alice arrived slightly exuding the demeanor of an anxious wreak. We assured her of our mastery of the lines and approached the stage to practice. Evan, who had accompanied us to the event, stayed behind to keep a row for us; however, many college girls were inching towards him from all directions, casually talking with friends and pretending to be looking for something before plopping down adjacent to Evan in order to start up a conversation.

Short girl taking picture of Evan. Happened all night long.

Once on stage, Guide Alice began her practice round with us figuring out staging and proper blocking. However, the first go-around proved disastrous as we Americans lacked the adequate energy, and Guide Alice just wanted the contest to end. Will’s tutor than pulled us to the side and told us something new. Alice was the only contestant speaking in a different language; moreover, she had us as her props, which set her apart. Alice had a definitive chance at succeeding in this competition!

After learning this new tidbit of information, I analyzed our problem spots and addressed the remainder of the group. Drawing on theatrical experience, I notified the plenty energetic Frank on how to properly pour out his energy during the actual performance, along with some clever ideas for the remainder of the group to utilize. We slowly developed into a team, working towards bringing Guide Alice home the golden trophy, which in this case was some sort of red booklet that signified greatness.

As we awaited the actual performance, crowds of people began pouring into the center. Who knew that tourism majors were so popular? As the crowds progressed, more and more Chinese girls began flocking over to our group in order to take pictures…mainly of and with Evan.

Once the ceremony began, we watched the other competitions’ host of skits. Different dance numbers and speeches slowly lead the competition to our act. We ascended the stairs and waited back stage, only pausing to take pictures with different students who weren’t too shy to ask. Finally, we descended upon the stage in a whirl of theatrical energy, exuding our own we-are-in-China-so-honestly-this-doesn’t-exactly-matter-and-this-will-actually-be-incredibly-fun carefree spirits, while feeding off the intense inundation of energy flowing from the now crazed audience. With blinding smiles brandished on our faces and wide curious eyes capturing the moment while focusing on Guide Alice, we executed our parts effectively and efficiently. We joined into the celebration of the Hawaiian locals by breaking into spontaneous hula dancing; we safely put our scuba safety equipment on; and I delivered my line of “Wow! That green sea turtle is so big!” in perfect English. We finished the performance, embraced by a colossal ovation, and left back stage with almost celebrity-status admirers along with hateful glances from Guide Alice’s competition.

When we returned to our seats, Will notified us that the performance would last at least another two hours, so we should go look for some food. Once he said Sichuan, I hopped up and moved out of the building, still ecstatic about the outcome of the performance and excited for the food. Unfortunately, the food was never discovered due to Will’s and Frank’s erred senses of direction. We settled for the next best option, which was a selection of true American food: 麦当劳 (mai4dang1lao2 = McDonal’s). Although the meat had a distinctive rubbery texture to it, the bacon and fries were phenomenally filling and the Christmas-music ambiance of the interior was both interesting and satisfying.

We returned back to the performance auditorium, we found seats again and awaited the results. Almost immediately, results began to be handed out and Alice stood forward! Excited, we cheered jovially until we noticed her face. Disappointment swallowed her face in a shade of emotion, and she then stepped back, now clearly awarded the American equivalent of Honorable Mention. Distraught, we wondered what had gone wrong with such a stellar performance. Indignant, we sat in protest as each the winners of the competition were announced to the crowd. Feeling like we needed to go congratulate Guide Alice and apologize if we were at fault, we began making our way along the side aisles towards the stage. However, suddenly, a new voice filled the auditorium announcing some sort of special recognition award. Having the first place competitor step back, they asked Guide Alice to move towards the front where they asked her where she would most like to go. She replied, “England,” (much to our displeasure and offense). The judges then conveyed to her that Qingdao University would help her find a job in tourism in England for the next year along with housing and education. Bewildered about the gravity of the award, we began hooting and hollering for Guide Alice’s newfound ecstasy.

After the lights came up across the auditorium, we approached Guide Alice and officially congratulated her. Then we took a few pictures with her before turning to leave. However, leaving wouldn’t be nearly that easy. Almost in an inhuman drove, we were assaulted with requests for different pictures with practically every student on the stage. Working our way down through different poses and smiles, the students all seemed very impressed with our Chinese, English, and height skills.

However, that night ended soon afterwards, and we returned to our dorm. A new weekend had begun along with Jackie’s following day birthday KTG Karaoke bar bash! But that’s an adventure for another day…like when I’m home day.

I don't know what face I'm making...but yeah that's the Captain America T-shirt.

The contest's Master of Ceremonies. Will's tutor is in the center.

Some Qingdao at night...

Oh American could I miss you so much that I would stoop down so low and enjoy so much

And here's another picture of someone taking a picture of Evan. Next time round  we plan on getting some pictures with our own phones as well.

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