Saturday, August 23, 2008

The ambassador.

I am not an ambassador.

Nevertheless, being one of, what, 50 non-Chinese people in Tianjin, I somehow have the unimaginable responsibility of representing my country.

Can we talk about this idea for a moment? Perhaps I've just been lapping at the teat of liberally-biased higher education for too long, but I thought that one couldn't/shouldn't make broad assumptions about a nation of 300 million widely varied human beings based on the actions of a single person. After all, if I see a person hold his slit-pantsed child over a garbage can while said child defecates into said garbage can, my first thought isn't, "All Chinese people shit in public." It's, "how does the parent know that the child has to shit? If there is some sort of warning system, why doesn't the parent simply take the child to the public toilet down the street?"

In my angelic Level 9 class today, we talked about the Kyoto Protocol. (I know: my job is awesome.) While we were talking about ways China was reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, I momentarily leaned up against the white board and balanced myself by resting my right foot against the wall for, perhaps, 30 seconds, until someone's comment filled me with the strength to turn around and write their brilliance on the board.

After class, a student whom I greatly respect (his English is terrible but he works incredibly hard) stopped me, as is his usual shtick. Today, however, he had no vocab questions or sentences to test out on me. He wanted to give me a suggestion.

"Brian? I want to give you a suggestion. Don't put your feet on the walls."

(Note: I had to really think what this meant, because I couldn't recall walking on the walls at any point in the last 24 years.)

He blathered on about "people in China" doing horrible, terrible things, but that I am "a representative of my country," and he didn't want people getting the wrong idea about the US.

I then responded that, though I am sorry for putting my foot on the wall because it may have lowered my students' opinion of me (not the US, but me) by a fraction of a hairswidth, I resent his implication that I am somehow required to act as a living embodiment of the USA.

Furthermore...give me a break. Other teachers answer their cell phones in class; will me resting my foot against the filthy wall for half a minute really invalidate my status as an upstanding citizen of the world?

So, sod off.

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