Still Feeling Safe in Huadu, Guangzhou

That I have not mentioned my uniform-clad students as of late does not mean that their militaristic shouts and cries have faded from the early hours of the morning. I did not feel it deserved mention. It has become so commonplace that I forgot it was noteworthy.

What birthed this amalgamation of words one calls a blog post was a small encounter I had earlier in the week.

I had abstained from photographing their drilling for some time. It was too militaristic for me to feel comfortable snapping away at. And it should. Among the ranks of blue, there are dots of green. These are men and women sent from the military to drill the students. Think ROTC except much, if not all, of the student body is involved.

However, one day last week I felt unusually confident, and I wanted to document what was taking place some hundred feet away from me. There was a group of students rather close to the fence, and the act of photographing seemed more innocent the closer I was to the action.

With a wry smile, both to disarm suspicion and out of fear that I would soon learn what Chinese water torture felt like, I approached the fence and took out my phone. I made no attempt at subtly. Let them know, them being the dots of green from the actual military, that I have nothing to hide.

I snapped a couple photos before a shout went out, and my bowels turned to water.

“Teacher! Teacher!”

I had not recognized them uniformed in blue, but the group standing feet away from the fence were my students. I have not gone into much detail, but I am idolized; I am adored. Within moments of the first cry of teacher, all discipline vanished. The students were waving; they were screaming and shouting hello‘s; they were students again.

I was rather taken aback. And so, too, was the dot of green that stood an inch to the left in the topmost photo. You cannot see him, and I did not see him either. His camouflage worked as intended, and I did not notice him standing beside me a few feet off of the track.

But I heard him.

I shook slightly when the first student shouted, teacher. I did not shake when the dot of green woke from his utter shock at the total collapse of discipline. Like a whip, he moved up and down the line screaming and spitting in their faces. I was petrified. Forget shaking, I could not move. I was convinced he was going to shout, “Capture that foreigner!”

The students forgot all about their smiles within an instant, but I did not have the mind to leave. I could not leave. Eventually the dot of green turned to face me, and he wore such an expression of loathing that all I could do was smile because I knew I was about to be arrested.

While I may be on a list somewhere, the man turned around without barking an order for my detention.


14 thoughts on “Still Feeling Safe in Huadu, Guangzhou

  1. You were not in trouble at all. It’s a very very common annual occurrence in China highschools called 军训 [Junxun] or ‘military training’. Just look up student military training. You are not on any list, don’t worry. The entire country probably has photos of their kids in these exercises. It’s similar to going on Summer camp in the west, just heavily propagandised and controlled by the government.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know, I know, but still I worry, though never for very long!

      One of the things that prompted me to snap some photos is that I did see a green dot running around with a camera.

      This is yearlong, as far as I am aware. Every week a different group of students (I think they are different groups) meet on the field in the morning.

      This specific meeting, however, was exclusively for the freshman and lasted either one or two weeks; I cannot remember. It was military training everyday while their seniors took their final exams.

      I felt rather anxious when I recognized one group in the middle of the field was drilling with plastic knives. These are my students!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah I see,

        it’s very likely you live close to a designated Junxun area. Schools from certain regions generally send all their students to one area once a year.

        Most schools don’t really care about it much from what I’ve seen, they just dump the kids there. I’ve heard that some of the instructors can be cockups though, abusing the little power they have, in general the whole exercise is seen negatively by the youth. Sadly, it’s part of the government’s policies to force these kids into these backwards camps for training. They chirp out the slogan that such military training for students has gone on since 400BC.


  2. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but one of the things I enjoy most about your blog is that it’s a side of China you don’t hear much about. For one, an area I’d never heard of. The mysterious incident of the vanishing restaurant, with its accompanying phantom dog. Student martial parades. Very thrilling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahah, I am so happy to hear that. The same to you. While I fall under the category myself, most fantasy stories are from vaguely familiar settings. It is nice to have those set in truly distant lands.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a student from Guangdong I think I need to explain that this is usually a camp providing training programs to schools or even companies. When I was a kid I also need to attend this so called “military training” but as far as I can tell they wouldn’t teach you anything about weapon and battle.. it’s more like disciplining those freshmen from schools and companies (wow i think it’s stupid to send your employers to these camps but seems like it’s getting popular)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While not this group in particular, these drills have been going on year round. Every morning I feel rather embarrassed because while uniformed blues head to the field, I head to the cafeteria. Makes me feel kind of… lazy.

      I did not watch much of the training, but I became very anxious when I realized that my students were practicing with plastic knives.

      This is a university, by the way. The freshman, specifically, are shown here.


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