China, from my observances so far, seems very much to be an up-with-the-sun and down-with-the-sun culture. While this means that John and I have to be up and at the bus stop for school by 7:30am every morning, it also means that we can go to bed earlier because everything shuts down and/or switches to the nightlife scene (complete with flashing red, blue, and green lights) by 8pm.
Apparently, nightlife really gets hopping around 8:30pm here! No waiting til midnight or 1am to hit the bars! You can party it up and still be home by 10 or 11! We have been taken out twice so far. The first time was two days after we arrived, and we were allowed to go home early and be in bed by 9pm.
Last night, however, we were treated to dinner at a famous restaurant next to the historic Yueyang Tower on Dongting Lake then taken to a 5 star karaoke bar. We were shown to a large private room and asked to sing karaoke (mercifully in English) with the dean of our school and several higher-ups at the oil company, Sinopec, that our school is affiliated with. Needless to say, it was quite awkward. I had only sang karaoke once before in my entire life and that was in Spanish. Singing alone in front of people has never been my cup of tea, especially not since some of them were actually quite talented singers. But I did sing (imagine singing “Hey Ya” upon request in front of a group of older people… then make that group Chinese with a completely different set of cultural norms that you are violating in addition to just offending their sensibilities), and life continued without falling apart or shattering as I had somewhat anticipated.
The evening ended with a disco session. Yes, my friends, a disco session complete with flashing lights. We were asked to “shake it” with people old enough to be our grandparents. It was quite possibly the most awkward moment yet since our arrival. It felt as if we were violating both American and Chinese cultural norms, but there was nothing to be done. We were simply trying to follow the wishes of our generous hosts… even though we don’t know how to disco.
All in all, Chinese nightlife has proven to be quite interesting and potentially enjoyable. Although quite different…