The Let’s-Embarrass-the-Foreigners Competition

The extracurricular life at Peking University could rightfully be described as ‘dead’ or at least ‘uninteresting’. However, as the International Office’s conscience may be weighing heavy for failing to include the international students in any sort of campus social scene, all the classes of foreigners are invited to take part in the ominously-named “Foreign Students Performance Competition”. It was probably a covert excuse that the staff had concocted to make the silly foreigners prance about on stage making fools of themselves behind the veil of “cultural interchange” and improvement of our language skills. It all has to take place in Chinese of course (because the judges were our Chinese teachers), but it promised a good laugh nonetheless.

Since our Oxford group has been pretty much self-contained since the beginning of the year (with only fleeting contact with any other souls in the building where our classes are held), this was an opportunity to embrace with open arms – be it an opportunity for social acceptance, or rather an opportunity for social suicide. Many of the classes were inevitably going to do boring things – i.e. “comedy” sketches that invariably just weren’t going to be funny. We didn’t like to slam the competition before we had seen it, yet we were determined to stand out. What better way than to work on two things that the Chinese judges could relate to: Mulan and Justin Bieber.

After spending a few days obtaining the music from the Internet, choreographing the dance routine and getting our heads around the lyrics, we prepared to take to the stage. In the hall sat all the foreign students, many of whom were Korean, clad in silly costumes (we played it safe with red t-shirts, black trousers and one of us wearing a wig), and chattering away throughout all the performances. They of course had a light-hearted approach to this whole spectacle, contrasting from the intense concentration on the faces of the dozen-or-so judges lined up at the front.

The majority of the performances were sketches, some of which were fairly funny, in face. It also turned out that we were not the only ones to have thought of Mulan, yet Justin Bieber was a safe bet for being unique. We had downloaded Jackie Chan’s Mandarin rendition of I’ll Make a Man out of You and a karaoke version of Baby, and were armed to the teeth with flimsy paper shields (of course with emergency lyrics scrawled on the back). We were last up. The choreography on the Mulan song comprised of lots of jumping and kicking, and Bieber gave way to lots of cheesy “oooh”s, an altered version of Ludacris’ rap, two girls being lifted on to guy’s shoulders and phrases to the general meaning of “Beijing, I love you, you’re my home, I’ll cry so much and I’ll miss you when I’m gone”. For many of us, quite some irony, here.

We got a nice big cheer and round of applause at the end and eventually ended up ranking in second place, although the whole thing was pretty much an everyone’s-a-winner situation. It was all great fun, despite the fact that Baby is stubbornly remaining in my head and refuses to budge. It wasn’t too harsh a social suicide, yet I fear that among the other foreign students, I’ll forever be remembered as the one who looked like a bit of a prat waving his arms around in the air singing “Beijing, Beijing, oooh, Beijing, Beijing, oooh”. And if the organisers wanted to laugh at foreigners, they certainly got what they were looking for.

If you have me on Facebook, it’s already been let loose on there.