Although I can't catch the details, I follow the gist. Should students be allowed to eat or drink in class? What to do about students that come late or leave early? How to handle disruptive behavior? These are the same questions we ask at faculty meetings back in the States.
Tell them to leave, says a hard-liner. But another suggests a softer approach. People are all talking at once, and the volume is increasing. But they're not arguing—the shouting match is punctuated by rounds of laughter.
There's no parliamentary procedure, and I can't even tell who's the chair. At last, the shouting stops.
“The meeting's over,” a colleague tells me. “Now we're going out for dinner.”
We talk and laugh as we walk to the restaurant. The air is crisp, and the plum blossoms glow pink against the azure sky.
As we nibble on the cold dishes, someone opens a bottle of huangjiu and pours shots.
“Ganbei!” he shouts, and it's bottoms up.
I do a couple to be polite, but no more. I don't want to nurse a hangover in the morning.
One by one, the hot dishes are brought in—a chicken and mushroom stew, snails with garlic, “lion's head” meatballs, a fish soup with rice cakes, to name a few. The men are drinking beer now, but I'm doing tea with the ladies.
After dinner, it's karaoke. We've got a private room, and waiters bring beer, tea and plenty of snacks—just in case we're still hungry after that sixteen-course meal.
The men are sloshed. They're belting out Teresa Teng love songs, and they make me sing along. After we croon “The Moon Represents My Heart,” one of them gets on his knee and asks me to marry him. But I don't take it as a serious proposal.
The women are giddy without alcoholic support. They sing and dance to teenybopper hits, giggling and screaming between each song. I sit back and think, if only their students could see them now....
I admire the Chinese gusto for living and wish I could let go the way they do. Even though I was subdued by comparison, they did pull me out of my shell, and it was fun. On the taxi ride home, I hear Teresa Teng singing in my head, and I'm humming along—“yueliang daibiao wo de xin.”