Last year, when some friends of mine left, I was welcomed into the world of private tutoring via the students they left behind. These students needed a qualified English and music teacher, and they live in the compound beside mine. I reluctantly offered to take them on, but I have no regrets. Almost a year later, I have become “part of the family” to the degree that I was invited to attend a birthday celebration for the family’s grandmother. Little did I realize it would include a live performance by a trained Peking opera professional.
Truthfully, the world of private tutoring for international students was not one I was familiar with. But, since embarking on this part-time work, these kinds of incredible moments have not been irregular. I have met some very interesting people and been invited to attend some extremely remarkable events.
On this particular night, my students’ grandmother turned seventy. I teach both children in this family, and I arrived to teach my classes only to be told that I should sit down and make myself comfortable. Both kids were excited for their “secret.” Soon, other neighbors from downstairs arrived along with their family’s tutor–another foreigner.
When all were seated, a Chinese flute player came into the room and sat down and started playing an exquisite melody. After a few musical phrases, in walked a Peking opera singer/actor dressed in full costume and extravagant make-up. Stunning. She performed for approximately thirty minutes and then gave the guest of honor (the grandmother) a few tips on opera stances.
Following this, we were all treated to a lavish dinner.
This had all been a surprise to the family’s grandmother and all evening she was flushed with the excitement of something so special. As I sat at the table as both teacher and guest, I had yet another flash of the frequent “only in China” thought.
I mean, “Where else would Peking Opera show up in a living room?”
Photos: Courtesy of Ember Swift