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One day at work right before Halloween, while setting up the haunted house, a few teachers approached me about a dance competition that they had started rehearsing for. Someone had told them that I was a good dancer (thanks!) and suggested that I take the solo. Without knowing anything about the competition or the dance, I said “Yes, of course!” I joined the rehearsals the next day.

Turns out the competition was for kindergarten teachers in Foshan. Sounds weird, huh? I’ve never heard of such a thing in the US. Well, turns out there are tons of kindergartens in Foshan and tons of pretty, young teachers in those kindergartens who like to dance. Our group had about 15 dancers in total. The leaders of our team chose a rowdy Szechuan dance that won us first place in our district (round 1) and 2nd in all of Foshan! We worked hard (and played hard) and it paid off. It was a delight for me to get to spend so much time with the other girls because I wouldn’t have otherwise, mostly because of language barriers. Only one of them speaks any English.

Rehearsals were funny because the girls mostly spoke in Cantonese, which I know only a few words in. When they needed to speak to me specifically, they’d switch to Mandarin and shout out any words in English that they knew for encouragement. The girl who speaks English, who is actually a good friend, would rehearse with me privately to nail down the solo parts. In the end, the rehearsals became a sort of casual language exchange, which was fun because learning how to pronounce strange sounds is funny, especially in front of an audience. And these ladies were hilarious in general. And kind. And patient. And generous. And always helpful. And often very silly. And they always treated me like I was the most amazing dancer they’d ever seen even though I felt rusty and out of shape. It was an awesome experience and I cherish the memories.

Also, being the only foreigner in the competition, I received lots of special attention. Sean told me that as soon as we walked on stage, the audience started to chatter and the word “foreigner” (in Chinese and Cantonese) started to echo throughout the auditorium.

The costumes were really cool. I guess this is what a Szechuan cowgirl looks like…but, you know, Chinese.Image

This is my friend Kerry. She wasn’t in the dance, but she came to cheer us on.ImageImage

Backstage, another team gets ready for their Egyptian-inspired piece.ImageImage

Here I am with the two leaders of the dance–Elaine on the left and Jeany on the right. Jeany is my friend who speaks English and helped me learn the solo parts. We are getting our makeup done in the mall just before the competition.ImageImage

Other teams backstage and in the lobby. So many great costumes!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

This team takes the cake.Image

It’s me!Image

It’s Elaine!Image

It’s Jeany!Image

It’s Jeany and a few of the other girls in our team!ImageImage

What a cutie she is. This is Alice.Image

Now the photos of our dance…See if you can spot me! (I’m the only one with red slippers.)ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

After the competition, all the competitors posed for pictures.ImageImage

And finally, we’re all back at the school for a few last shots. The plaque says “1st place”!!!Image