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! Désirent 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.