Shengliver’s Note: This entry was written after a dinner party one evening some years ago. I checked it out for this week’s update. A number of errors have been corrected and the principles I set then are still the guidelines I hold on to today.


I attended a banquet this evening and I feel guilty.


One “side benefit” of being a Chinese teacher is being invited to expensive dinners by the students’ parents. Since I became a teacher, I have been to numerous such dinners, though I have refused many. For me, this side benefit is a torture.


When I arrive at the venue, which is always a fancy restaurant or hotel, at the agreed time, more often than not, I find that I have been deceived. One or two hours is spent playing games or rather gambling before eating starts. I do not play those games, so when the others are making fun, I am sitting by myself on the sofa, watching TV and sipping tea. How I wish the time could be passed at home with my family or with my books!


When proper eating seriously starts, more torture comes upon me. Drinking is the first headache. I am not a drinker, yet every time the host and hostess, together with my colleagues, try to persuade me to take in the “poison”. Of course, my heart is hardened and none of them is able to talk me into drinking. I have a glass of water, or some juice or milk. Smoking is the second disgusting thing. Such banquets take place in well-furnished and well-decorated rooms. The airflow is not good. Therefore, the smokers enjoy themselves at the expense of the non-smokers’ suffering. I am a non-smoker. Even 2 or 3 days after such a banquet my clothes still stink. My daughter always complains about the offensive odour my clothes release when I come back home. Eating high-class food is a pleasure, but for many, chatting and dirty talk over the meal is more enjoyable, especially after the drinkers get tipsy. Their laughter and all the foolish behaviour drive me nuts. The third torture is the waste of time and food. I have asked myself many times why I should spend such a weekend evening this way. There would be millions of other meaningful ways to pass the evening. I could watch TV at home, take a walk with my family, keep company with my daughter while she is working on her work, learn English or keep in touch with my e-pals online. At the end of such a dinner, the leftovers are enough to last an average family a week. However, most of the leftovers are dumped as trash rather than doggie-bagged and taken home. And as far as I know, many such dinners are not paid for by the parents themselves, but by their work units or something else.


Sitting at the table, I feel keenly why the Chinese society can sometimes be so unfair and inefficient. Why am I invited by the parents to such banquets? You might say they do so to show their respect to me. Yes, some parents belong to this category. But a large majority of them do so in order that the teacher could favour their kids. I am sure some teachers are influenced by such dinners. I will never be. You may invite me to a dinner every day, and I would still be the true me. Anyway, do you believe teachers are so powerful that they can unfairly help a kid learn? If such help should exist, it would do more harm than good to the kid. Excessive eating and drinking are part of the Chinese way of going about their business. And they contribute to an unfair China and a corrupt China. If difficult problems can be solved through drinking and eating, do you think there is high efficiency in those work units or companies who resort to such practices? After the eating and drinking, will rules be bent, principles be abandoned, and standards be compromised?


To be honest, I have refused many such dinners. My refusals make many guys lose face. These guys include my boss, my co-workers and lots of “friends”. And my refusal to drink makes some drinkers uneasy and embarrassed. Probably they find me hard to please. And I have got some notoriety in my work place for my stubbornness.


I don’t care. I will continue to decline such invitations from those “KIND” parents.


Do I ever drink? Of course I do occasionally. I drink a little bit at home with my family. In summer, my wife and I share a bottle of iced beer at dinner. Very cool. No one forces me to drink. And I like it. But at those dinners, you cannot drink of your own free will. Once you take up your glass, you will be raped into a drunkard. Once you start, you cannot put down your glass until the drinking competition comes to an end, when no one knows who is who and when a male drunkard could enter a Ladies’. Ha-ha.


I would rather be myself. And I am. Carry on, Shengliver.

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