Thursday, December 22, 2011

Killing Me Softly (Originally Posted Dec 5, 2011)

“I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him to listen for a while…” -Roberta Flack

Xian is sick. She is throwing up and clutching her chest so we take her to the local clinic to the clown pediatrician who insists on wearing a surgical gown and round mirror head piece. He sits her in the chair, he takes her temperature and makes her say, “Ahhh!” He speaks to her in Chinese and tells her to avoid pears and cold water.
I’m serious.
Rebekah is next. She is coughing with a runny nose. He tells her to not eat ice cream on birthdays and makes me promise not to feed my daughters a special kind of cold noodle I’ve never heard of. Then he gives her a breathing treatment out of the respirator.
I have to beg him to speak in English to me. Before I go he reminds me, most importantly, no cold water. This is very important, under no circumstances should anyone drink cold water during winter. I ask about her chest pains he says it's nothing.
“And there he was this young boy, a stranger to my eyes
“I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd.” -Roberta Flack

The next morning my teacher buddy Paul and I stride into the local breakfast shop before school and the man at the counter screams, “You’re a GIANT!’ Paul speaks Chinese and makes his order. Medium latte, scrambled egg sandwich.
“And you’re FAT!”
Paul nods, “Just a cup of coffee please.”
“How old are you?” the wife barks from the register.
“I think the GIANT is forty-five.”
“No, he’s fifty-five. Look at that grey beard. He should play Santa Claus.”
“Hey GIANT,” he man asks, “Will you play Santa Claus?”
Paul shrugs, “I just want a cup of coffee…”
Ten minutes later Paul and I are in the office, slumped over chairs, looking at each other and shaking our heads.
“I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud
“He sang as if he knew me, in all my dark despair…” -Roberta Flack

The administrator drops a memo on our desks. A new law on the books in Taiwan states foreign workers will have to pay taxes to the city government. Of course, this is taxation without representation. So I figured I would complain about some of the things in school I have a right to complain about now that I am a Taiwan tax payer. Did you know that there are no hand towels in any bathrooms in the school? I can see my foreign reader’s jaws hitting the floor. Oh yes, we go to the bathroom, we wash our hands without soap in the trough, then we shake them dry as we walk outside…
Can you see a problem with this?
This is a country obsessed with SARS and H1N1, and if a kid is diagnosed with a temperature 38 degrees plus, they are sent home, and if they catch a cold, the government mandates them to stay home for a week at the parent’s expense… how about this…? Put some freaking hand towels in the bathroom, spend a couple of pennies on disposable paper and save thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket parent, sub-teacher, and doctor insurance costs… I don’t know… seems like a smart move to me… but what do I know. I’m just a dumb tax payer... I'm off to class...
“And then he looked right through me as if I wasn’t there…” -Roberta Flack

Andrew’s wife is having a baby by cesarean which means they can schedule it. The baby is breech, and the grandfather steps in. After consulting the I-Ching, he determines the best day to have the baby would be Wednesday the 7th, which is middle of the week for Andrew and no good. Originally it was the Saturday before. His wife is laboring, hard to breathe, bed ridden… but if the baby is not born on the day grandfather chooses then he will lord it over them forever. Granddaughter fails a test… it’s because she wasn’t born on the 7th. Granddaughter catches a cold… it’s because they didn’t heed his advice. Granddaughter loses a sock, falls off her bike, doesn’t walk until she’s 11 months… you name it, grandfather wins… and they wait another five days. Welcome to Asia.
“Strumming my pain with his fingers singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song…” -Roberta Flack

Sitting in the office scanning the news… ex-Illinois governor Blagojevich getting 14 years… Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claiming he didn’t order soldiers to fire on his own people, woman caught mutilating husband over TV remote…and then I get the call, Xian has pneumonia… it’s more severe than we thought, the chest pains she was complaining about are actually a fluid build-up on her lungs. The local quack at the clinic missed it, and now she’s in the China Medical University Emergency Room. I’m to come immediately. There’s discussion of a surgery.
I leave class immediately, grab a taxi, and head across town. Roberta Flack is playing in the cab.

1 comment:

  1. Brian, it's always darkest before the dawn. Don't lose your faith. We're all praying for her.