Spreading the Christmas Message

Nicholas Quirke was in the unique position of sharing the ‘Christmas Story’ with a small group of Chinese children who knew absolutely nothing about the story of the birth of Christ on 13 December 2020. The school had asked him to take a onetime lesson on the Christmas story and the celebration of Christmas and as he was already going to be at the school for his regular class it seemed a good idea. In the meantime, the day started with recording the sunrise before travelling going out into the minus 10 degree temperature. He was wrapped against the cold so he did not mind stopping at an unusual sight he spotted. Since he had arrived in Beijing , many neighbourhoods had been fenced off from the Pavement, reducing access to one entry to enable the monitoring of who was coming in and out of the buildings. All the apartment blocks along Xuanwumen Drive had bean sealed but now some of the ugly blue boards had come down and he could see into the grounds of the apartments that lined the Avenue and it seemed a good sign that complete normality was returning to the city. The school was running a chess competition in the room he usually taught in and he was moved but he needed also to maintain some quiet, which with his students was rarely possible. There were supposed to be some tests that he was to supervise but as these were cancelled he discovered he needed to kill 3 hours before being back at the school for 2pm. He went to the Soho Galaxy Mall where he found somewhere to eat, which turned out to be a fast food Chinese style restaurant where he had the ‘Su’ (Vegan dishes) available. None of the students attending were his pupils and he was surprised to learn that they were all a little scared to have a laowai teacher. Chaoyangmen was a smart area and it was astonishing to learn that most of the children had not had any contact with foreigners at all and to be in the same room as one was quite mystifying and overwhelming. He did not doubt though his skill in earning the trust and affection his interactions with children of any nationality earned him. Donning a Santa hat he did his best to share the Christmas Story but explaining angels and the virgin conception, paying taxes , a 70 mile journey across the desert and giving birth in a stable to a heavenly king, above which a star loomed attracting the attention of shepherds and wise men seemed too much and he was more than grateful for his translator who helped them with the nuances of Jesus’s birth . It was a mildly successful attempt but he was no Gladys Aylward, fired with the evangelical zeal of a missionary and he doubted that the children would follow him across the mountains in the event of any invasion, though they were significantly more interested when he started a game of ‘Christmas Pictionary’ and wrapping it up with writing a Christmas wish in English to put on the tree seemed to satisfy them and help them realise that Laowai’s are not some kind of demon. Though the work was not onerous he felt he was ending the day fatigued and out of sorts but watching ‘The Mortuary Collection’, a whacky horror compendium roused him and kept him awake till it was time for bed and the night’s shut eye.

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