Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dissent Increases As Western Barbarians Continue to Offend

How do I adequately express my dismay with the cultural sensitivities of the staff we've been given here? Let me explain: there are four sane Western (well Mr. Kwan is Oxford educated from Hong Kong and tends to think like us so I include him as somewhat Western, but...) administrators trying to hold together a program staff of 12, 3 Chinese program managers and 9 so-called teaching assistants, four of whom are Chinese Americans from Harvard and MIT - and boy my opinion of those institutions has dropped). The TAs by the way have apparently agreed to internship status, so they aren't paid, which means we can't exactly fire their asses, which is exactly what they deserve (that's Mr. Kwan's department anyway). All of the Chinese staff seem to be under the impression that the three of us from St. Albans are here to put down China and humiliate them, and will interpret our every move and word as a slight to them personally and to the greatness of China more generally. A few examples that upset them and set them to muttering against us:
- being asked to ask the bus driver to turn the lights on and off inside the bus so something could be read
- reading an article about soccer from the newspaper to the kids (I'm completely serious)
- having to translate for a boring, disorganized professor
- laughing about our inability to pronounce 'cat' in Mandarin (apparently this was taken as making fun of the greatness of the Chinese language!)

And it goes on and on. I have not experienced such unprofessional, thin-skinned people in my life. Every day we have a minor crisis with this or that TA because we've upset them in some way. And the way they deal with it is to go off, brooding and sulking, and conspire amongst themselves. The fact that WIll is black and Taeko is Japanese doesn't really help matters any. But geeeeeesh, these people need to get a grip on their self-image hangups, not to mention their work ethic, which contrary to most stereotypes, is on par with the 18th century French aristocracy. To be fair, these are the little princes and princesses of Chinese society (those at Hogwarts Drom know the phenomenon well): well-educated, upper middle-class (surprise! yes, there class exists in this Communist state), only children who have been pampered their entire lives, aren't used to working very hard (again, I'm sure we can all think of a few examples -- and I thought I was bad on this front), and expect to be praised at every turn, whether it be making first oboe in the high school symphonic band, acing the maths section of the SAT, or just getting their ass to work on time (which mostly they don't do here for the record). It is immensely frustrating on so many levels trying to work with this lot in a summer program that, as WOP knows well, pretty much consumes most of your time and energy. One example from this afternoon: The kids have the afternoon free. But until we get written permission for them to be allowed to go out into Shanghai unaccompanied by an adult, we need to have the TAs chaperone them if they go off campus; this has been SOP since day one. However, it seems that all the TAs read free time on the schedule and thought that they would be able to do what they liked as well (which mostly boils down to shopping and going to clubs).
I'm not sure where I'm headed with this rant, but if you recall an earlier Paddy posting, I saw it coming. Hopefully we keep them in line for another two weeks. I do, however, worry about the impending transfer of the Governorship from Taeko to Tex after that for the second session.

We have yet to oder the main gates closed but the artillery has been put on pemanent notice! DĂ©sirent ardemment de phase les barbares occidentaux!!

PS - By the way, Wilted Flower has become a respected and effective ally in our struggle against what I'm terming the Rebellion of the Offended Little Princesses.

6 comments:

sobinator said...

If you wont play them twisted sister doc, maybe they should learn a thing or two from the french...sorry to take up so much space, but frankly its such a damn good anthem, takes real balls to right something like this.

Let's go children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny's
Bloody flag is raised! (repeat)
In the countryside, do you hear
The roaring of these fierce soldiers?
They come right to our arms
To slit the throats of our sons, our friends!

Grab your weapons, citizens!
Form your batallions!
Let us march! Let us march!
May impure blood
Water our fields!

This horde of slaves, traitors, plotting kings,
What do they want?
For whom these vile shackles,
These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Frenchmen, for us, oh! what an insult!
What emotions that must excite!
It is us that they dare to consider
Returning to ancient slavery!

What! These foreign troops
Would make laws in our home!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would bring down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brows would bend beneath the yoke!
Vile despots would become
The masters of our fate!

Tremble, tyrants! and you, traitors,
The disgrace of all groups,
Tremble! Your parricidal plans
Will finally pay the price! (repeat)
Everyone is a soldier to fight you,
If they fall, our young heros,
France will make more,
Ready to battle you!

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Bear or hold back your blows!
Spare these sad victims,
Regretfully arming against us. (repeat)
But not these bloodthirsty despots,
But not these accomplices of Bouillé,
All of these animals who, without pity,
Tear their mother's breast to pieces!

Sacred love of France,
Lead, support our avenging arms!
Liberty, beloved Liberty,
Fight with your defenders! (repeat)
Under our flags, let victory
Hasten to your manly tones!
May your dying enemies
See your triumph and our glory!

We will enter the pit
When our elders are no longer there;
There, we will find their dust
And the traces of their virtues. (repeat)
Much less eager to outlive them
Than to share their casket,
We will have the sublime pride
Of avenging them or following them!

Paddy said...

I have indeed 'entered the pit' - and i'm still looking for the virtues

mp said...

Paddy can himself be a little thin-skinned at times (so can we all).

An SPS update: Eagles, sharp eyed and witted as always--has hardly been astounded at this year's crop--only one or two worth getting to know he says. Cape May, on the other hand, thinks this is the best group that has come through. Personally, I have had so little real contact with them (other than furtive hollow conversations meant to draw attention away from the fact that, yes, I am filling up a plate of their food at the dinner line) that I feel unable to say much. I will note that last night as late as 11:30 the Hogwarts dorm was filled such a "din of infinite grief" (read: violin practicing) as Dante must have heard as he descended with the Poet into the chasm of pain. It was agonizing (as in literally an agon almost developed involving my going for Rob's claymore to end the thing myself). "Heard melodies are sweet," wrote Keats, "but those unheard / Are sweeter." Shit, it's starting up again as I write. . . .

On another note, congrats to Wop on today's win.

On another note, is there an email address at which I can reach you Paddy? Nothing serious, and I mean that, just a few small things that you ought to know about the room.

Paddy said...

hmmm - the room? Now you've got me worried. Of course I still have both e-mails: shurms@hotmail.com and rshurmer@cathedral.org

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Anonymous said...

maybe you could be just a little more culturally sensitive- "how would a chinese person apologize?" not only builds on stereotypes, but is somewhat... well... racist?

And FYI- objecting to racist comments about one's people does not make one "thin skinned". Just culturally sensitive. Not all of us like to capitalize on stereotypes.

-Defender of Princesses (from your so-called War of the Princesses)