You're sad, I'm sad, everybody's sad. We all have
emotions of helplessness. We all feel danger for,
well, the world.
This thing is happening and there seems to be nothing
we can do. I know, write my senator, start a petition,
send rice or pretzels or prayers. Don't think that one voice is too little because you know, that's how they get you. I've been hearing that for years.
My boss told me not to talk to my students about love,
religion, or politics. With the Chinese government the
way it is, it's just not a good idea. My boss,
however, is the ever-overflowing crap machine, so I usually think the opposite of whatever he says has a
good chance of being bible truth. So I started talking
to my classes.
I am a teacher and that provides me the ability of power trips. I don't have many, just two, I don't allow students to speak like limeys, they're pants, not trousers damnit and I have no fucking clue which letter is zed. Also, I don't allow people to wear yankees paraphenalia in my classroom. I make them take it off, whatever it is, or turn it inside out. I do my best to teach them that those pinstripes did, in fact, come from the devil. But I don't do much beyond that,
I don't keep favorites or tell them they're too young.
I do my best to treat them as people and teach them
English. I do however have the power of making them
talk (in english) about whatever subject I want.
All week, I've been sad about the war. It's strange
here, in China. Here I am thinking of some weird disease in Guangdong and Hong Kong and my own skin, worrying about myself, and at the same time, thinking of my friends and family in America and abroad, worrying about their lives and the world's backlash, and worrying about a friend I have in the war, someone who has a very real chance of this war directly
affecting them in a bad way. China blocks many websites so getting real news about this is hard, hearing or watching the president's broadcasts is impossible, and as much as I don't care what he has to say I want to hear it myself.
The 48-hour warning gave out this morning for me, 9:00
am. I was in between classes. I did not want to go to
class at a time like this, I wanted to think or read
or talk or do anything but ignore what's happening. I wanted to yell to everyone to watch out, but they knew. I ask all my students what do you think of the
war, of Saddam, of the U.N. and what they tell me is scary.
They are young so sometimes their parent's words come
out of their mouths. They are Chinese, so sometimes
their government's words come out of their mouth. But
in the end, they are people, and more truthful because they are children, so if you try hard enough and
listen closely you can hear what they really think.
They say the US is great because it is so strong and
powerful. Chinese people have strange priorities when
you are raised by American society. They say the US
will win, but one told me they cannot win forever.
They say the US is too strong. They say the U.N. has
now become incompetent and useless. They say Saddam is
a great man, a brave man, very strong and one child
wanted to impress on me that he had a big head. They
are children and this is very far away. One student
told me that it was not fair to ask them their
opinions, it has nothing to do with them. They are too
far away. They do not want war but there is nothing
they can do. Everyone said they do not like the war
because many people will die.
There seems to be nothing to do but wait and hope. One
person said they hope it is fast and as bloodless as
possible, I agree. One said that September 11th will
come again, and it's true, a stopped calendar is right
once a year or something, september has to come again
in one sense but I really hope, in the most selfish
way, that in the coming deaths my friends and family
aren't among those hurt.
It's hard to teach. You have to keep your kids
interested and disciplined and most of all constantly
talking english, it's impossible. You have to
humiliate yourself with silly gags, dance funny in
public, make corny grandpa jokes. If you make the
students laugh the school will think you are a great
teacher. So here I am in front of a class, chalk in
hand, and all I can think about is with overwhelming
sadness the depth of what's wrong in the world, and
what always seems to be wrong in the world. If it's
not hatred towards immigrants, it's women's rights and slavery and world war 2 and Vietnam and drugs and police and Ronald Reagan and Latin America and Tiananmen Square. There's always something, isn't
there. But here I am in front of 60 children that
won't listen to me if I can't make them laugh. So I
have to forget all that and get lost inside the head
of a 12 year old, I have to make jokes about china,
make jokes about America, make people dance and sing
if they don't want to answer my questions, dance and
sing myself, draw things funny on the board, call the
troublemaker's babies when they don't want to talk.
Then the bell rings and I'm left inside my own head,
damned by the bell.
In my last class today it was the worst. I just couldn't get inside. I was telling jokes, they were laughing, but I wasn't smiling. Then a student hands me a water balloon, in the middle of class he says it's a gift. I smile because this one particular class room is on the fourth floor and
happens to be over a road, so I can look down and see
nothing but road. The children understand my idea and
shout no! no! you'll hit someone! except for a few
that shout yes! yes! and I smile and chuck it out onto
the road, hitting no one but dusty pavement and a
Chinese people are so caught up in safety it's
laughable, they think China, possibly the safest part
of the world I've ever been too, is dangerous. They
protect themselves in the weirdest way too, the most
Chinese ways, almost perfect but something's missing. They
make a gate you can hop over easy, they don't watch
against shoplifting, they have bike locks you can take
off in 2 minutes with a screw driver. Basically,
unlike America, they have more important things to worry about then stealing a candy bar or how to rip
out a bike lock and take the bike as your own. Reminds
me of a story a friend of mine told me, he used to
live in Pakistan and he says one time he saw this man
washing windows high up but using no safety line, just
standing on the ledge, and he says that man should
have a rope so he won't hurt himself if he falls! and
his friends say yes yes! a rope! and they hop to and an hour later he sees the same man washing windows with a rope tied around his waist, the other line held diligently by a man on the ground. Some things just don't make sense.
I hope you are all coping. I hope you are ok and will stay
ok. I prayed the other night for the first time in
well, my life. That's a strange thing for me, I'm at
best a unitarian, and at worst a philosopher, and
basically not a religious man, but I was half asleep
in my bed when the truth came to me (truth always
seems apparent while about to fall asleep) and I
realized that with all this shit in the world my soul
was sick, I said that actually that my soul was sick
which sounds silly, but you have to try it while
half-asleep. I realized that for my world, I must pray
and I did. I always hated when people will say I'll
pray for you to me because I don't want anyone praying
for me, but I think we really need something, and I
will do whatever I can. I will pray for everyone
inside this world and hope in the end everything works
out for the best.
Peace, most of all, Peace.