Learning Confusion with Confucious


June 29th and the weather is like November.  Rained all day yesterday.  The students didn’t like that.  Neither did we.  Progress on the table stopped.  Kayaking was put on hold and most of the day was spent ‘in studies’.

Yeah.  It is summer and these students (tops in their school) are doing extra studies!

Ms Wong is a great teacher.  Caring.  Creative.  Interesting.  She motivates her students and she jams more data per brain cell into them than any teacher I know.  But she is also a bit of a slave-driver.  She is a great teacher – in China.  For Chinese.  In Surrey, BC, they’d have hung and quartered her within a month!

Guess which students will be the physicists and doctors, the accountants and the pharmacists?  Guess which ones will be the criminals, the artists, the entrepreneurs and the fork-lift drivers?

You never really know.  May as well try to guess which ones will be happier? 

These kids are always re-hashing their day in English and putting it all down in a journal.  Which, I suppose, is good.  But they are still hashing and working at 11:00 pm!  And they start right after they washed up the dishes after dinner.  Worse, on a rainy day, they get double lessons.  By our standards, they work too hard.

“Thank you, Lord, for not making me a Chinese student”.

They are smart kids.  Hard workers, too.  And they learn quickly.  Plus, they are as earnest as hell and very nice people  But, oddly, they don’t seem to know very much.  I know they are bright but they know nothing of Chinese history, for instance.  Even less of the world.  Last year none knew where Spain was on a map!

I suppose this is to be expected in a still-communist-totalitarian regime that blocks much of the internet and controls the media.  And with huge emphasis on ‘professionalism’.  Still, you’d think they would know about Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai.  They don’t even know about Mao Zedong!

I won’t bore you with a litany of all that they don’t know – even when compared to a North American couch potato-lout who dropped out of high school and is fully engaged only in video-games.  They are still students, after all.  But, I confess that it seems like they have lived in a bubble.  To me, anyway.

The other day I was going to mention prostates and sperm and reproduction, genes, chromosomes, DNA and the like (using dogs and ravens as the subjects).  You know, ‘basic building block’ stuff?  But the mention of the word ‘penis’ shocked them.  Ms Wong repeated the word in Cantonese with her head slightly bowed and her voice in a bit of a whisper and everyone covered their faces but still managed to blush past their hands.  Seems ‘body’ discussions are absolutely ‘off-limits’ for even discussions on health.

Which, of course, gave me the incentive to delve even deeper into the hot, pulsating passion of the topic.  Oooohhh!

But Sal quickly put a stop to that!

No wonder there are 1.6 billion Chinese people!  Somebody has to tell them how it all works!

There truly is a great deal good about deep Chinese society.  They put huge emphasis on ‘getting along’, being harmonious, working-in-groups, respecting hierarchies and obeying all the rules and regulations.  Without question.  They don’t even have to work at it.  They just do it!  They are gentle and polite and respectful of elders (even those of us deemed half-mad) and they are completely committed to ‘doing the right thing’.  I love the culture even though I could never fully participate.  I just couldn’t.  I’d speak up and go to jail.

But they make great guests.  And even better friends!

We like them.  And I think they like us.  Pretty sure, actually.  They see us as eccentric at the very least.  Maybe crazy.  We are independent in the extreme and very, very brave.  We are funny and outrageous, naughty and even rude at times.  We are barbarians in some ways, enlightened in others and confusing most of the time. We are old, weird, interesting whackos who, for some inexplicable reason, their school thinks they should experience.

So, they do.

And it is good for both of us.


2 thoughts on “Learning Confusion with Confucious

    • True. Maybe. The Americans ‘for sure’. Think Dolly Parton et al. And I confess to a healthy interest in the process myself. Diminishing with age but still healthy. Just finished reading Jay Ingram’s Fatal Flaws – about protiens reproducing without DNA. So, even if the mammaries are missing, reproduction still holds some fascination for me. The Chinese? Well, it seems, ‘not so much’. They are less driven by the ‘urge’ it appears but, bottom line: they produce the numbers.


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