(Another story from my China archives that never got shared - until now! From July 2, 2005)
What is it that compels middle-aged, tone-deaf Chinese men to sing karaoke at volumes loud enough to wake our neighbors in the city across the river? Social pressure and consumption of large quantities of alcohol have something to do with it, I’m sure.
Karaoke is hugely popular in urban China. Many families have personal karaoke machines, or karaoke VCDs (Video CDs) they play through their TV. Old and young, men and women, talented or otherwise, all take turns singing Chinese folk songs, patriotic songs, and love songs into the microphone, keeping time with the words as they appear on the screen. In a spirit of generosity, the would-be vocal superstars kindly share their warblings with all residents of the apartment building, so everyone can be a part of the festivities.
For the past 30 or 40 minutes, I’ve been treated to a string of songs belted out as enthusiastically as they are off-key, by the occupants of the apartment directly above ours. I’m sure they’re lovely songs, full of tradition and history and sentimentality. I have done some Chinese karaoke in the past myself. It’s a lot of fun, as well as a good way to learn more of the language and culture. But at this late hour of the night, exhausted from a day of teaching, I’m not in the best frame of mind for a music appreciation lesson.
These are the same neighbors who often have pulsating dance/techno music booming through the rafters way into the late night hours. It’s the local party house apparently. Recently, after a night of little sleep due to the activity and noise above me, I asked my roommate if it had kept her up too. She hadn’t heard a sound. So either I’m a lighter sleeper than she is, or it’s louder in my bedroom than in hers. Or both.
That particular night, as 10:00pm turned to 11:00pm, 12:00am, 1:00am, and 2:00am, and they were still partying hard upstairs, no amount of shoving earplugs in my ears, holding a pillow over my head, or humming other songs could get that pounding disco beat out of my brain.
Finally I decided that the Father must have had me awake for a reason. I figured maybe He wanted me to pr for my neighbors. So I did. Through clenched teeth, I alternated between prs. of “Make it stop, Lrd!” and “Blss them, Lrd… Just make it stop, please!!!”
It’s too easy for me to get caught up in the rhythm of daily activities here – shopping, cooking, eating, cleaning, teaching, sleeping – and forget about those all around me who don't know Him. Then the Father has to do something drastic, like keep me awake until 2:00am with party music upstairs, to remind me of the reason I’m here. And He tells me, in no uncertain terms, that I need to be pr-ing for all the millions in this nation who still have not heard of His love.
“But how are they to call on One in whom they have not belvd? And how are they to blv in One of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim Him? And how are they to proclaim Him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rm 10:14-15)
…There’s a strange sound coming from upstairs. Silence. The karaoke party upstairs seems to be over. How wonderful! I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m going to take advantage of it and try to get some sleep! Thank the Lrd!