May 25, 2012
Thursday and Friday our university celebrates "Sports Meet." As a colleague said, “It’s for sport lovers and a nice break for the rest of us.” Well, I’m a sport lover, so I know where I’ll be this weekend, I’ll be at the Sports Meet watching students strut their stuff on the track.
Freshmen students are required to participate. Participation in this case entails sitting in the stands as a department while wearing matching wind suits and fake red Nike hats cheering on their classmates in running events. Each student must choose an event to run. I always feel sorry for the last student to sign up. She's almost always stuck running the 1600m having not run in years. She labors around the track trying to complete the last three laps.
As I sit with my students, I watch Dennis, a freshmen student, proudly walk to his blocks for the 200m. We cheer loudly yelling “加油! jia you!” offering our best encouragement. A quick glance at the competitors and we all know Dennis has no chance in this race, but really, who cares? We cheer even louder know as the starter begins the race and Dennis sets off. I notice his classmates covering their faces laughing yet still wholeheartedly cheering as Dennis finishes a distant last place. We all smile, laugh, and share high-fives as we congratulate Dennis on a race well run and begin our cheers for the next student.
Being the foreign teacher at the event, I usually get all kinds of requests to participate in funny games. Two years ago I was forcibly recruited to participate in a basketball roll. That was simple enough; line up 12 people and roll a basketball through the tunnel form be our legs. The end person caught the ball, ran to the front, and began the basketball-tunnel-roll again.
So when students come to me requesting “come with us,” I squirm uneasily. “Come where?” I ask trying to squeeze more information about where I'd be going and what exactly I'd be doing having vision of basketballs, frisbees, or toilet paper toss. It was all in vain because before long I hear students chant my name urging me on. I must follow, so I stand and oblige.
Moments later I walk around the infield representing the Foreign Language Department. At the halfway point of our lap or honor, I'm suddenly the flag bearer. No more simply walking around the stadium, now I carry a large red flag in the swirling winds. Such an ill deserved honor. Who am I to be the flag bearer? I’m a simple American living the best I know how in China. Around the track I walk receiving all kinds of “hellos” and “how are you?s” from students I don’t even know.
All the while I’m thinking about the flag. It’s heavy, my arms are tired, and the wind won’t stop blowing. I try with all I’ve got to keep the flag high enough it doesn’t blow into someone’s face as I walk by.
Really, it is an honor to serve these students, even the ones I don’t know. And if by carrying a flag around the stadium I bring joy to the students, I would carry the flag seventy more laps. With a few breaks for my arms of course. :)
For even more photos, click here.