Tuesday, October 31, 2006

victim of a hate crime

We all have our bad days. Although most of you probably have the benefit of complaining about the world's injustices to somebody who can fluently speak English. I don't. So I will just do it here. Although the past couple of days have been better, I definitely went through a rough patch over the weekend.

Starting with Friday.Friday started pleasantly enough. I decided to take an alternate way to work (aka a different bus, that takes much longer but has much less people). One benefit, to be able to sit down instead of being crammed in between 5 people, the other benefit. . .skipping the morning roundevous with my co-worker. He and I both live near each other and teach at the same school in the mornings. This naturally leads us to taking the same bus, which leads to other things such as breakfasts at McDonald's together and a lot of chit-chat. As established in the previous post, I am not the most chatty of gals. This applies ten fold at pre-noon hours. Sometimes I just want to enjoy my hotcakes and coffee in quiet.

Despite a nice, silent breakfast, things started to go sour once I started teaching at LO. I have 4 half hour classes there. Usually the kids are ok, but at the end of the week they are wild and restless and I'm tired and impatient. Not a good combo. But I just brushed my shoulders off and moved on with my day. Grabbed a taxi to my tutoring job. There was a bit of a miscommunication between me and the driver. He went the wrong way and it's never easy to get yourself turned around once you're going the wrong way in Beijing traffic. Supposedly Beijing has the widest roads in the world. The result, my fare was double what it normally is. But looking at the bright side, I told myself, at least I'm in China. $4 vs. $2 isn't such a big loss.

After tutoring it was off to the grade school I teach at on Friday afternoons for 2 hours. I had a great lesson planned. All about Halloween: ghosts, witches, monsters-the works. I even bought a mask for the occassion and was going to have them make greeting cards. Can you imagine the excitement??? But when I got there I noticed a woman sitting in the back of the room. Who was she and what was she doing in my classroom? I asked my assistant, "Oh, she's just one of the student's mothers. She's sitting in on the class because her daughter doesn't really like your lessons." Um, ok. That made me feel a lot better. It got worse as her eyes pierced into me as I began my lesson. I can now recognize the face of pure evil. Alright, I'm exaggerating, but she really looked pissed off. Never cracked a smile, not even when I busted out the monster mask.

After fifty minutes, it was break time and I was ready for a nervous breakdown. I've never felt so on edge. I wanted her out of the room. Normally I don't care if the parents are there, but this lady was creepin' me out. Plus, they aren't suppose to be parents in the room anyway. In my defense. So I did what any logical person would do and I overreacted. I told my assistant either mommy was leaving or a I was. This may seem a little extreme, but the Chinese are big on smoothing things over. In fact, I had asked my assistant nicely first, but was given a "there-there" response of, "She'll only be here today. She won't be here next week. We're sorry that we didn't tell you first, but we didn't know she'd be here." I wanted to say "I don't give a flying F*%$ if she'll be here next week or not. I'm sick of getting the evil eye." But since there were children present and my assistant's English isn't so hot, I had to make the threat. It worked! I no longer had to face the look of death, but I was left with the guilt of having been so rude to my sweet, innocent assistant.

I made it through the rest of class and the evening without inncident, although filled with doubt. Am I a bad teacher? Am I mean? Am I ever going to get used to this place? But then Saturday morning came. A new day. A new start. But the ickiness of Friday just seaped into Saturday and I was already in a foul mood and fighting with Ming before breakfast. I had to get to work, so I left. He followed and we caught the bus. Saturday's can also be brutal, everyone is out shopping or going to work. No seats were available, leaving us standing at the back of the bus. A middle-aged woman was behind me and I kept hearing her mumbling about my "da shu bao" (big book bag). I didn't understand the rest of what she was saying, but I wanted to know what her problem was, so I asked her "What's your problem?" I'm pretty sure she couldn't understand English, but she definitely got the gyst of what I was saying. She went off on me. Then Ming went off on her. Many vicious words were exchanged (I know because I have made a point to learn these words). I was caught in between them, literally. They were screaming over my head. I was begging Ming to stop. He wouldn't, nor would the lady. The Chinese seem to live for verbal confrontation. I always see people screaming at each other in the streets. And everyone stands around to watch. This is a great, cheap form of entertainment. With nowhere to run or hide, I began to cry. If everyone on the bus wasn't already looking, they were definitely looking then.

Eventually things calmed down and the lady had to get off the bus. This seemed to be the low point of the weekend, and everything went up from there. But I'm still left wondering. . .what was this woman's problem? Was this her way of expressing hatred towards wide-eyed, fair haired foreigners? Was she having a bad day? Going through her change of life? I don't know, but I hope to not be on the receiving end of an angry 50-year-old Chinese woman ever again.

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