The CCE dinner yesterday night was great – even though it was not followed by the anticipated show. Already when I was walking towards the canteen, I felt tiny rain drops on my skin, and the sky was grey as ashes. I looked at my local friend: “You don’t have an emergency plan, right? You couldn’t just do it in the Assembly Hall?” Worried, she stared at the sky. “No, we don’t…” My intuition was right. We sat in the canteen, eating great chicken, pear soup et delicious beef, when it started pouring outside. Everybody watched the drops splashing onto the trees and road. Some of my local co-years sat together and prayed for an end to the rain. Li Ping, the teacher leader of CCE immediately had an emergency meeting with the leading CCE students. I saw them near the entrance, Li Ping speaking fast and quietly and everybody standing around her rather desolately. Eventually, CCE announced the postponement of the show. Many of the performers listened to the announcement arm in arm, supporting each other; some had tears in their eyes. They had prepared this show since before Christmas, it was supposed to be their evening, their big show. And now it was raining… Later, two of the student leaders wrote a message to our student community – a message still written in both hope and pride: “On behalf of everyone in CCE, we’d just like to say again, that we are very sorry about the delay of the show. We recognize how much work and effort everyone has put into the show. We again apologize, we know people’s spirits are dampened by this delay, we just hope that everyone involved can, for the sake of the show, carry on doing the best they can and deliver the epic show that we promised, and still promise, to everyone. As we always say, GA YAU*.”
As I said, the dinner was still wonderful. As last year, we were distributed among the tables. The local firstyears engaged in CCE then served us as waiters and brought us plates and plates of food. First, we had an apple-pear-fig-and-snow-fungus-soup, that, despite its many ingredients, really tasted like plain hot pear water to me. Later there was shred chicken that tasted like walnut or peanut butter, jelly fish (we already had that last year, too, but I personally think it doesn’t taste like anything – it just has a very chewy consistence), beef brisket and turnips stew, which was my favorite dish of the evening, pork dumplings, fried rice and much more. There was a good mix of food, and even though there were no special surprises on the menu, everybody was satisfied by the meal.
As for every Cultural Evening Dinner, CCE also had dress codes for the night: national dress, Chinese farmers and fishermen, Kung Fu or something else related to Chinese Culture. Thereby we had quite a few coned hats, two pandas and numerous Qipaos (the Chinese national costume) assembled in the canteen at six. I wanted to imitate the promotional profile pictures that our CCE students had used and hence painted my face in a “Chinese Opera” Style: Gigantic black eyebrows and the cheeks colored in bright red that grew less towards the chin.
Usually, I should have painted the rest of my face white, but I didn’t have any white paint, so my normal skin color had to be sufficient. My local roomies thought it was a very creative idea and looked very good, yet laughed at it because apparently it looked “too european: “You’re hair is not dark enough, and not quite straight either, you have green eyes, and they’re too big, and your nose is far too big too!” Oh well, I guess with my large and pointy nose I’ll never be able to fully imitate something Chinese…! Altogether, the dinner was very enjoyable, and so was the Canteen Party later in the evening. I now look even more forward to CCE. Ga Yau* indeed!
* Ga Yau (加油) is a Chinese expression, literally meaning “add oil!” It is used to wish somebody good luck and success, e.g. for exams or a big event like the Cultural Evening Show, or to motivate somebody for a task. We use it frequently here on campus, and the expression exists both in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.