Heart Of Darkness 7.1.10 [Night]
July 5, 2010 § Leave a comment
Now onto the deep stuff.
Compared to the complete freedom I enjoyed in Hong Kong, this is like being in high school again: Everybody is focused on studying and I have no autonomy. I saw very few taxis around the city and there’s no way to know how the bus system works. Even if I wanted to go somewhere, the teacher’s bedroom is located INSIDE the classroom, in which there are students 12 hours a day. Getting out isn’t as much of a problem as the fact that there is literally nowhere to go. This is more in the middle of nowhere than Columbia, Missouri.
I’m also suffering withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from my exchange student friends I spent my precious last weeks with, withdrawal from the city I’ve grown to love, withdrawal from a high-speed internet connection that is the tool for my addiction, withdrawal from the freedom of having no responsibilities and being able to stay up as late as I possibly can, and most importantly, withdrawal from being able to be myself.
I urged my students to refer to me as Laura and nothing else, but some of them still call me 老师 [teacher]. This is discomfiting for me as only three of them are younger than me, and even so, only by two years. That’s only the surface of a gap I haven’t quite figured out how to bridge yet. Because I’m not comfortable [or awake] enough to go mingle outside of my bedroom yet, I receive a knock on my door by my escort to meals, or for a delivery of fruit or tissues or breakfast or what have you. Their attention is touching, for sure, but I could literally be in a prison. An air-conditioned prison with smiling guards and a big bed…but a prison nevertheless.
My meals are all paid for. Even my after-dinner bottle of juice at the tiny convenient store was paid for by Mark. The 2600RMB from my aunts is burning a hole in its secret compartment, and I’ll be lucky if I get to spend even a quarter of it this whole month.
The niceties can be stifling. I asked Mark how to operate the speakers so I can get my private late-night fix of loud music bwahaha and he showed me willingly, but added, “You don’t wave to worry about it, teacher, we can set it up for you.” THANK YOU BUT I REFUSE TO BE A DEPENDENT SIMPERING WEAKLING OKAY DON’T ASSUME THINGS ABOUT ME.
After class, one of my students came up and asked me something about people in Chicago. I couldn’t understand the phrase he used, but after some difficulty, I deduced that basically he was asking if people in Chicago dress like the do “in the movies” … that is, skankily? I almost died. I suppose it would be advantageous for me to hide my penchant for deep-cut tank tops despite the 100-degree weather, but that means half of my clothes are out of service. And if that’s considered a curiosity, I suppose I had better not reveal all the other kinds of sins I’ve gotten into.
Augh! I can’t seem to word my thoughts precisely, but the final kicker is this: The family that was supposed to come and co-teach with me, whose mother had fallen sick a few days ago, just sent word to Hannah that she passed away from her illness. Not only is this a dreadful shock to their family, it also means that I, an UNTRAINED English speaker-turned-teacher, may very well have to teach alone for the next three weeks.
It’s the kind of task that I can do if I grit my teeth and fake it, but I will not enjoy it.
Ever since she got it into her head that I wouldn’t be able to find employment after graduation, mother has been pressuring me to pick another occupation. Like teacher. Or teacher. Or maybe teacher. But I shrugged off the suggestions because I knew I wouldn’t like it. I also know that I have the potential to be a good teacher — I’m patient, caring, loud, etc — but if something doesn’t come naturally and pays insufficiently, there’s no incentive. Also, when I think about most pop culture young female teachers I’ve seen [the one in Matilda comes to mind], I would hate to be put into that smiley, pristine little box. I may feel pedestal-ized here in China, but in America the position of teacher does not nearly receive enough social esteem as it deserves.
I almost cried a couple of times last night while thinking about my situation, but each time the tears could not quite escape. I’ve never quite been able to cry out of sheer self-pity; my destiny is in my own hands. A strong statement, but my last thought before drifting off to sleep was, Park Yong Ha, was it so bad that you really lost all your will to live?