I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but two weeks ago I was the "Foreigner Judge" for the 2008 Hanoi English Festival. Basically each school district in Hanoi sent one or two teams to the contest to perform an English themed song/play/dance/etc.
There was a three judge panel: me, a Vietnamese professor from Hanoi University who teaches English and some dude who must have stolen his outfit from a clown (he was wearing a ridiculous plaid jacket with a bright red and white striped button down shirt...but he spoke English really well).
We had to give the performances a score in four different categories: pronunciation, fluency, performance and outfits. I took the judging quite seriously and was shocked to find out in the end that this was just the semi-finals. Out of the 36 performances we had to select 19 for the finals. I was asked to judge the finals but unfortunately/fortunately I'll be traveling with my sister.
Here were some of the highlights:
1. The judge to my left went to the bathroom before a performance and came back as they were finishing. He sat down and without asking my opinion or glancing at my score card wrote his grades for all four categories. He gave them a 70 out of 100. I had scored them as an 88, one of my highest scores.
2. The two salsa dances. Yes, salsa. Your guess is as good as mine why they think salsa is English themed.
3. When the first salsa dance ended I turned to the head of the contest and said, "Um, they didn't speak any English. How do I score that?" The woman said to me, "Give them a score on how they made you feel." They made me feel pretty good. I gave them an 85.
4. Before the contest began the professor told me that Vietnamese people had a different opinion on what made a costume "beautiful." It turns out he was right. I gave high scores for the schools who had put together original outfits. He gave high scores to the schools who didn't wear any outfit except their own school uniform.
5. The contest was four hours long and prior to it I had drunk a bunch of water. I had to pee really badly around the three hour mark and asked the professor where the bathroom was. He told me he'd show me...in the middle of a performance. I said, "Lets wait till the school finishes" but he gave me a look that blatantly said, "Why? What's wrong with you?" So I got up and went to the bathroom with the professor.
6. The English themed dance that was ten boys wearing Yao Ming's Houston Rockets jersey and passing basketballs to each other.
7. After the contest having scores of children and teachers ask to take their picture with me. If only they knew I still don't know when to use, "He and I" or "Me and him."