I am on my way to school. I flag down a motorbike and show him a piece of paper reading Guan Yuan in Mandarin. “Ok” he says as I hop on the back of his bike. On the way I see the police, my heart stops and I check the driver’s shirt quickly to make sure he is a legal driver. Thank god, I’m safe. We weave in and out of traffic, it’s so noisy. I put in my iPod and blast up the volume to drown out the sounds of the honking horns surrounding me. People are waving as they see me drive by so I smile and wave back. We are finally at my school; I stumble off the bike and pull out my wallet. I pay the man 5 Yuan and say, “Xie, Xie” (which means thank you). As I approach the gate the security guard comes out, “Good morning Chelsea”, “Good morning” I reply back. He jesters me forward, he must have a new word for me. I step into this tiny cubicle for an office and look around. There are windows overlooking the road with four chairs placed in front of them. He has a desk that is fit along the back wall all the way around. It is messy, there is garbage everywhere. I look to the left and see a tiny bathroom, there is no door. Eww. There are rain coats hanging up on a hook beside the room. I look forward and he is standing there smiling at me pointing to an empty beer bottle. Wow its 8 am, is that necessary? “Piju” he says. “Beer” I reply. He repeats me, “Beer”. He waits for me to say Piju, “Piju”. He smiles and lets me go on my way. As I walk to my office I try to think of all the other words he has taught me this past month. He will tell me a word in Mandarin and I tell him the word in English, so we are really teaching each other. I like it; he has taught me a lot.
I walk into the school and the children who have finished their breakfast are walking by and saying, “Hello, Chelsea,” and “Hello, Teacher”. I smile and wave at all of them. As I enter the office cool fresh air hits my face. I look around and all the Chinese teachers are smiling. The ones who know English say good morning, the ones who do not just smile and nod. I take a seat in front of my computer and try to log on to MSN so I can talk to my mom before class. My friend Venus comes in and is as excited to see me as I am to see her, “Did you miss me, my friend?” she asked.
“Of course!” I reply.
“How did you sleep?”
“My bed is too hard” I complain. She laughs at me and sits down at her desk. We continue to talk and make plans for the upcoming weekend and the head of the English department comes over to us. “Ah, Chelsea, I would like you to teach the children a song”
“A song?” I gulp. I can’t sing!
“Yes I think they will like it a lot” Oh no. I think quickly of all the childhood nursery rhymes I learned growing up. Jack and Jill? No…stupid. Little Miss Muffet? No…too many hard words. Humpty Dumpty? No, too sad. I’m a little teapot? YES! I throw together a power point with the lyrics and pretty pictures of teapots and make my way to class. My heart begins to pound. I can’t sing. I CAN’T SING! I walk towards the room gripping my books tight. I’m sweating already. Please don’t be another teacher, please, please, please! I look into the room and see only children who are screaming “Yayyy!” once they see me. No Chinese teacher! YES! A little bit of relief passing through me.
I start up the computer and put the song on the power point. Clap, Clap, Clap Clap Clap. I get the students attention. A silence fills the room. I smile. “Good morning class” I say. “Good morning Chelsea” they reply. I smile again. “GOOD MORNING!” I yell. “GOOD MORNING CHELSEA” they scream back. I laugh and draw my tree on the board. I want to waste as much time as possible so we don’t have to sing for too long, so I begin with an activity. I put my name at the top of the tree and pull out three pictures of different coloured monkeys. “What is this?” I ask them. “MONKEY” they scream back. I pick out one of the colours and move towards one section of the room. I raise my hand and ask “What colour is this monkey?” Hands shoot up into the air and the students begin to yell, “Let me try, let me try!” I choose a student. She is cute; her hair is up in pigtails. “It is a green monkey” she says. I smile and give her a sticker. I hold up the next monkey in the middle of the room. I choose a boy who has glasses that look too big for his head. “Blue monkey” he says. I give him a sticker and hold up the last monkey. Hands fly into the air once again. I look around the room and choose a boy who has one hand in the air and the other in his nose. “It’s a yellow monkey”. “Very good,” I say, “if you are good the monkey will go up, if you are bad it will go down, the monkey closest to my name at the end of class gets stickers.” I hold up the stickers and the whole class screams in excitement.
Clap, Clap, Clap Clap Clap. Everyone becomes silent. I turn to the board to begin this humiliating act of singing. Knock Knock. I look towards the door and see Venus standing there smiling, she walks to the back of the room and takes a seat to watch. NOO!!!! My heart sinks and my face flushes red. I can do this! “Stand up!” I shout. All the students stand up in arms at their sides like a soldier. “I can do this.” I whisper to myself. I go through each line of the song and show the kids the actions. “I’m a little teapot,” I sing. Oh no, my voice cracked. My face beats red I can feel the blood rushing to my cheeks. I swallow and continue. No one noticed no one noticed. I get them to repeat it in groups and then as a whole class. Aww, they are so cute. I forget about my mistake and get carried away singing and dancing like a fool with the students. The bell rings. I look at the board and the blue monkeys have behaved the best. I begin to hand out stickers and Venus approaches me from the back. “Chelsea,” she began “you have a terrible voice.” I stare at her and begin to laugh. “I know” I admit. She hugs me and says, “It’s okay because you are beautiful” Wow, well that makes me feel better. We laugh together as she helps me pack up my things. We walk back to the office and as soon as we enter Venus finds it necessary to inform all the teachers of my horrible singing ability. My face turns red and I decide that I am never singing again.