As I mentioned before, I have an extremely busy schedule on Thursdays and Fridays, teaching three classes each day that are broken up into two ninety minute blocks of time. Needless to say, by the time I get to teach my last class on Friday I’m dead tired. This past Friday was a little different, though.
I taught, for the fourth time, a lesson on the body. This lesson included American body idioms (i.e. arm and a leg, in over my head, etc.) and body language (i.e. thumbs up, blowing a kiss, etc.). The first half of the class went as planned, and I had made it to the break bell. During the break, as I was double checking the attendance by asking my monitor who was missing, one of my students who had missed the first class was smiling at me, which isn’t uncommon since I’m the only Black teacher at HuaQiao. So I walked over to her desk. She was noticeably excited.
“Ms. Gavins,” she began. “I have a question for you.”
"Ok, what is it?” I answered, thinking it would the usual ‘where do you come from’.
"What is your stars?” She asked with the same smiling expression she’d had all class.
"Huh?” I was clearly confused by now and asked “What do you mean?”
"What is your constellation?” She asked, this time waving an open hand toward the ceiling as if she was throwing stars in the sky.
"Oh! I understand,” I began. “You mean my zodiac sign? I’m a scorpio.”
"Oh my gosh!!!!!” She shrilled. “Me too!!!”
"My birthday is November 20. When is your?” She asked, leaning forward with anticipation.
"Mine is November 15th!” I responded, attempting to match her excitement.
As she was readying to ask another question, Lao Li, an older teacher in the Bilingual Department, walked in. I motioned for the student to hold that thought and went to welcome Lao Li to my classroom.
“Hello, Lao Li! How are you?” I asked, genuinely excited to see him.
"Oh, you remembered me!” He began with a smile. “I have come to learn from you. I will sit and watch your class, ok?”
"Ok, you can sit here in this desk. No one is sitting here. “
I motioned to a desk near the door, wanting to make his observation as comfortable as possible. This conversation reminiscent of so many I had with Dr. Young while I was student teaching at Keenan. “Before the break, the students were finishing up pair work. I will give them a few minutes to complete it when the bell rings and some of them will present the class before moving on to discuss body language.”
He simply nodded and smiled as he began to take notes.
Noticing that I still had four minutes left in the ten-minute break, I went back to the student to finish our conversation.
"Ms. Gavins, I am O blood type,” she began immediately. “What is yours?”
Without thinking I said, “that is the weirdest question anyone has ever asked me.”
"Huh?” She said.
"Oh, I’m O, too.” I said, thankful she didn’t hear my last comment. (Later I discovered that this is a very common question. They even post their blood types on QQ- the Chinese version of Facebook).
"I just want to say one more thing, Ms. Gavins,” she began with her smile growing wider. “Are you Black.”
"Yes, I am.”
"Oh wow.” She said with admiration in her voice. “Where are you from?”
"I’m from America in the south. From a state called South Carolina.”
"Sous Carolina.” She attempted to repeat after me. “Ok, you are the most beautiful Black person I have ever seen.”
Laughing almost instinctually on cue I asked very directly but politely, “have you ever seen any other Black people?”
“Of course, I have.” She said as her expression changed ever so slightly. “ I see Black people at Guilin Lu. They are mostly from Brazil.” She spoke matter of factly saying, “I think you are the most beautiful!” she said with her smile returning.
“Thanks,” I replied simply with a soft chuckle, still convinced that she wasn’t qualified to make such an assessment.
“It is now time to for class, please return to classes so you can work.” The ladies’ recorded voice set to music, which was the bell, sounded as if on cue.