高考囧事 – Those examination stories

说起来,我考过四次高考,一次是应届,三次是复读,可谓高考界的老油条。我们学校还有更老的,有一位兄台,连考八年,到最后他高中的同学已经回校当了他的班主任了,只可惜他仍是名落孙山。最后这位兄台做了什么不得而知,但他的传奇却在中学里流传了很多年。

十几年前,在北方那个偏远的小镇,我这样的老油条比比皆是,也算不得稀奇,稀奇的是每年高考时,都会有些啼笑皆非的囧事。那时候,囧字还不流行,人们说起来都只是说:那哥们太逗了,或者,那件事太好玩了。

应届高考时,懵懵懂懂,并不太重视。学校医务室的大夫搬了两个氧气罐,跑到宿舍楼下,卖氧气给高考的同学,鼓吹说吸了氧气,大脑比平时灵活。不少同学都掏钱去吸两口,我没钱,搞了一肚子的羡慕嫉妒恨,然后对着一棵枝叶茂盛的树狠狠地深呼吸了几口,走向考场。

不过考完试之后,有传言说,氧气罐子里根本没有氧气,顶多是空气,或者连空气都算不上,是一罐罐的废气而已。我有点不怀好意的想,这样看,穷也有穷的好处,少上一点当,少吸一点废气。当然更多是坏处,最坏的就是只能吃食堂的饭,看见别人吃一包方便面,也都要赶紧躲开,免得当着人家的面流出口水来。

在高考时,让人确定兴奋的事情,就是终于舍得去食堂买几份肉菜了。可又不敢放开了吃,怕习惯了青菜的胃受不了猛然间油水的攻击,坏肚子可不是闹着玩的。这经历让我看《平凡的世界》里孙少平有一段,特有感触。

高考闹肚子,绝对会成为关键时刻掉链子的经典案例的。有一年高考,考场里就有同学闹肚子,一场考试要跑厕所三四趟,他去一次,就得有一个监考老师跟着去。来来回回的,整个考场都笼罩在他和老师的脚步声,以及他会不会拉在教室的恐惧里。

第二次复读时,班上有两个同学,一个数学极好,每次开始都考取140分左右的,另一个一个数学极差,别的科目也一般。两个人关机关系很铁,喝多了酒可以两肋插菜刀那种。巧合的是,他们还被分在一个考场,于是动了心思。为了帮助哥们,考数学之前他们商量好了,成绩好的那个给差的那个传纸条,并约定用4321来代表ABCD,这样即使被监考老师捉到,也可以抵赖。考试过程中纸条有惊无险地传了过去,考完出来,大家都聚集在食堂里,边啃馒头边相互对着答案。差的那个兴奋得不得了,得意地说:真幸运啊,你的答案几经波折终于传到我手里了,1234ABCD都抄上了,选择题全部拿下,我数学能及格了。周围的同学顿时石化:你脑子进水了啊,4321对应ABCD,不是1234。这哥们正好抄反,选择题全军覆没。

那天午饭,他一粒米也没吃下去。第二年,我们又成了同学。

有一年考试,也是数学,就在快要交卷的前五分钟。同考场的一个同学尖叫一声,大家都去看,原来她前桌的一个人,把她卷子抢走了奋笔疾抄,监考的老师已经惊呆了,从没见过过这样的。过了好一会,老师们才冲上去制止了这个人。

囧或不囧,高考都不过是一段经历,哪怕是四次高考,也不可能像红薯一样,烤得多久熟得透。事实上,人们关注它,谈论它,并非因为它的有趣,而是以为它的残酷:一个人的命运常常就在几天时间里决定了。这种决定,不是他当科学家还是当艺术家区别,而是他要一辈子做农民,还是有机会进入其他行业,改换门庭。对农村孩子来说,尤其如此。

我永远记得,我最后一年高考后不久,终于收到大学录取通知书时,放羊的舅舅说:总算又有一个人从咱们这穷山沟出去了。他当年的沉重,我后来才深刻体会,现在,也只希望能有更多贫寒子弟能挤过这座独木桥,抢滩登陆到好一点的岸上。

Speaking of the Gaokao, I took the test 4 times. First when I finished high school, and three times after that. You could say I’m like an ‘old fox’—quite experienced in taking the exam. Even so, our school has some students who are even more experienced. There was one classmate who took the test for eight whole years. By the end, his original classmates returned to teach his classes. Unfortunately, he still failed to earn a passing score. In the end, no one knows what he amounted to, but his story is still famously passed down in our school for many years.

A decade or more ago up north in my neck of the woods, it wouldn’t be considered odd to find such ‘old foxes’ everywhere. What was unusual, however, was that every year during the Gaokao exam period, there would be these annoyingly funny moments — called ‘jiong’ in Chinese — where you didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. At that time, the term jiong had not yet become popular, so when people describe those kinds of situations, they would just say, those guys, or that thing is too funny, or hilarious.

The first year that I took the test, I was bewildered and confused. But it hardly mattered. A doctor from the school infirmary brought two oxygen tanks and went running throughout the dorms selling oxygen canisters to the students. He exclaimed that breathing more oxygen would make your brain more agile. Quite a few students fished out money for 2 mouthfuls of air, but I didn’t have money, I just had a stomach full of envious hatred. Instead, I went to a lush green tree and single-mindedly berated in a few lung-fulls of air, and then I set off for the testing room.

But after the test, there were rumors spreading that the oxygen tanks actually had no oxygen at all. At best it was just air, and perhaps it wasn’t even air at all, but industrial fumes. I had a malicious thought that, when you look at it, being poor has some advantages. You rarely get fooled into paying to breathe industrial fumes, for example. Of course there are even more disadvantages, the worst of which is only being able to eat cafeteria food. When you see someone else eating instant noodles, you want to get out of there fast, before you start drooling in front of everyone.

What really gets people excited during the Gaokao is when you are finally free to go and buy some savory treats at the cafeteria. But you don’t want to take too many chances, for fear that your stomach, used to a vegetarian diet, will not be able to handle the onslaught of greasiness and might act up by growling audibly. This made me read a very interesting paragraph from “An Ordinary World” about Sun Shaoping (Sun Shaoping is a character in the very popular novel An Ordinary World — he grew up poor in a village but aspired go to work in the city as a laborer).

A growling stomach during the Gaokao can definitely make you the focal point of a classic screw-up. One year one of our classmates had to make 3 or 4 trips to the restroom during one session. Every time he went, a proctor had to go with him. Due to his pacing back and forth, the entire test hall was filled with the noise of the student and proctor walking back and forth, and he drew fear behind him through the room.

The second time I retook the exam, there were two classmates, one with excellent math scores who would always earn 140 marks and another who was bad at math but alright in other subjects. These two were close friends, the kind where if you drank too much you can stick a knife in both sides of the chest. Coincidentally, they were placed in the same testing group and thus began plotting. In order to help out the other fellow, they discussed before the math exam that the guy with the better marks in math would pass on a slip of paper to the guy who wasn’t so good at math. They had decided that 4321 would stand for ABCD so that when the proctor came around they could deny cheating. During the exam, the slip of paper was passed on reluctantly and after the test, everyone gathered in the cafeteria eating steamed buns and talking about test answers. The guy who was bad at math was really excited and exclaimed: I’m really so lucky. After many twists and turns the answer paper finally got to me. 1234ABCD were all on there and I picked my answers accordingly, so I definitely passed the math exam. The classmates around him immediately said: Your head must be full of water! 4321 corresponded to ABCD, not 1234. This guy just happened to mix up the answers and bombed the multiple choice.

That day he didn’t even eat a single grain of rice at lunch. The following year, we were classmates again.

During one year’s exam, also in mathematics, it was just 5 minutes before we were to turn in our exam papers. Suddenly the entire examination hall with filled with the screeching of one of our classmates. Everyone went to see. It turned out that someone from the table in front of her had grabbed her exam paper and furiously began copying down answers. No one had ever imagined such a thing. The proctors just stood there dumbfounded for a good moment before they eventually stopped the student.

Whether or not it’s embarrassing or frustrating, the Gaokao is, however, quite an experience. Even if it’s the fourth time around of sitting the exam, it’s not like where a sweet potato gets sweeter the longer its cooked. In reality, people pay attention and talk about it not because it is just interesting, but because they think that the Gaokao decides one’s fate within just a few days. This kind of decision isn’t the difference between becoming an artist or becoming a scientist, but it’s the outcome that either dooms one to peasantry or provides opportunity to enter a different field and raise one’s family status by moving up in the world.

I will always remember how, shortly after I took the Gaokao for the last time, and finally received that letter of acceptance, my sheep-herding uncle said, “Finally, one of us will make it out of this poverty-stricken valley.” I only now realize his seriousness and only wish that more children of poverty would be able to find a way across this narrow bridge and find their place on the other side.

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adminreply
August 3, 2018 at 5:56 am

Original translation by kattyabarta

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