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December 7th, 2014:

The Speech Contest

The Consulate gets many invitations to participate in educational and cultural events. Yesterday I was a judge in the provincial English speech contest for high school and college students.

The Stage

The Stage

Chinese take things like this seriously. The event was in a studio, the stage was professionally lit, and the hosts were oily and plastic like variety show hosts (but they were very nice, I swear).

The contest consisted of three events. First, the contestants gave a one-minute self-introduction, then they had to read a passage in Chinese and translate it into English. Third, they look at a picture and gave a three-minute impromptu speech about it. The judges could then ask a question to elicit some more from the contestant.

There were eight or nine judges, some Chinese and some foreign teachers. We rated each contestant like Olympic judges, by writing our scores on a little whiteboard and holding it up after the performance.

Contestant

Contestant

One contestant broke my heart. In her self-introduction, a 16-year-old high school student said that 8 days ago, her parents were in a car accident. Her father was killed, and her mother was in the hospital. They didn’t know if she would live or not. The student said that she decided to compete, despite her family situation, because her parents always encouraged her to do her best.

Randomness can be inhumane. The translation passage that she got was about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. When she read the section about wearing a carnation on Mother’s Day, and the color of the flower depends on whether your mother is alive or not, she almost broke down. The hostess on the stage was crying. The student made it through the event, though. Brave kid.

Randomness wasn’t done being cruel to this kid, though. The impromptu speech was about how your parents help you decide on which college to choose.  The student was as incredulous as I was. She said: “family, again?” But she got through it.

When it came to giving the score, I am proud to say that I was impartial, and didn’t take her situation into account when I judged her performance. I treated her just the same as every other contestant.

Yeah, right.

The presentation of the awards was also very formal. I got to present some of the awards.

We were given the prizes by assistants, then we presented the prizes to the winners.

We were given the prizes by assistants, then we presented the prizes to the winners.

Presenting the prizes.

Presenting the prizes.

The judges also received a thank-you gift: A copy of the president’s book “Governance of China.” I can’t wait to read it cover to cover. I actually received a Chinese version of the book last week at another event, so now I have an English version, too. Hooray.

Hey, we get a prize, too!

Hey, we get a prize, too!

Curtain call

Curtain call

Me and Host

Me and Host

Me and Host

Me and Host

The day was loooooooong. I originally expected it to be a morning event, but it lasted from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. I was really tired afterwards. But it was another interesting day in Shenyang. Every one of them is, it seems.