Today I entered a new reality. It’s a reality filled with adoring fans, screaming for autographs and pictures and boys telling me I’m beautiful. They hang on my every word, even though they can’t understand what I’m saying. My name is in lights on the marquee, and there is a lavish banquet in my honor. No, this is not a dream. Strangely, this was my world today. I was taken to a middle school in another town to do a workshop for the English teachers at the school. Although the city is big, it has a small-town feel. No one has ever seen a westerner in person, and I caused quite a stir. I was the show-and-tell object of the year.
Upon arrival at the school, as we were walking to the building, the other teacher with me pointed out the marquee – yes, my name was on it as if I were a rock singer in concert. I laughed and took several pictures. I went in and gave my two-hour workshop to the teachers and things went as expected, except that as students passed by the room, they would group around the window and stare in mesmerized and giggle and chatter. When the workshop finished, things turned funnier. I was taken to various classrooms packed with children to give short motivational speeches to them to practice English, study hard, etc, etc. They cheered, they screamed, a few tried their best to ask me questions in English. As I’m quickly whisked away to another classroom, children are running down the hall after us thrusting books and pens at me. They all want me to sign their English books! Some want pictures, a few asked for hugs. All want my QQ contact info (a cell phone chat program that everyone is on in China). After that, I was taken to a restaurant in a fancy hotel, where we had an amazing dinner with 10 people and tons of wonderful and expensive food (crab, rack of lamb, etc.) I’m a celebrity here, and all because I’m foreign. I’m apparently the most exciting thing to happen in a long time. How can I ever return to the U.S. and a life of being ordinary?