Friday, October 24, 2008

Right foot green

I was filled with dread as I listened to the hordes of feet tromping up the staircase. It was Wednesday evening and it had already been a long day. The day was only about to grow longer, with the arrival of 300 freshmen for a welcoming open house at all of the foreign teachers' homes.

I'm just going to be honest. I hate large group gatherings. I'm the type of person who hovers in a corner and hopes to find just one person to talk to the whole night. That tactic doesn't work so well when there are droves of students pouring through the door with the sole aim of seeing you (and investigating your home).

Rewind a few hours. Two senior students sat on my couch. We had just finished a movie and were chatting about life. The discussion started to go deeper. Curiousity overcoming her, the student questioned me about how I communicate with my Father. I delightedly watched as the first few glimmers of light and hope began to appear in her words. These are the moments that make all of it worth it. No pizza. Missing my nephew's dedication. No football games in the Shoe. Entertaining of large crowds of freshmen.

The fact is, the crowd control of Wednesday evening is necessary to get to that moment on the couch. It took many nights of large groups and apparent shallowness to bring us to that point. And so, with an upward plea for cheerfulness, I braced myself for the arrival of many eager faces. For two and a half hours I laughed, I smiled, I posed for pictures, and I contorted myself into all kinds of strange positions. Yes, the entertainment in my house was the great game of Twister. I yelled, "Left hand, red!", "Right jiao...yellow...huang se", and all variations of colors and appendages in English and Chinese for several hours. My voice was hoarse by the end, but the students left with grins and excitement on their faces. I can only hope and ask that some of those students will in the coming months and years be sitting on my couch with similar questions.

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