Tuesday, May 27, 2014
We were all out late, just wandering around in the shadows, trying to shake off the week's dust.
Hoarse and abuzz...
I started thinking about Duke Theseus, how in a quiet moment with Hippolyta, he tells her that imagination distorts his reality.
Altering what his eye sees...but sometimes the imagination may see truths the human eye cannot.
I'm marking these last days well. Here, my eyes are wide open.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Plenty of TV news cameras out today. Somebody made the point at the staff meeting this afternoon, he could have walked a few minutes down the hill onto our campus.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
“Oh! He’s talking again! Why is he always talking?”
“I can’t even listen!”
“Won’t he ever shut up?”
“He’s so motorcycle.” They rev with their hands to resemble my sputtering lips.
And so I order them to take off their shoes and leave them with the umbrellas outside. Now they throw a fit.
“I’m not taking off my shoes!”
“You can’t make me!”
“Why you say such stupid things?”
I explain that it takes me almost an hour to clean the class every day. That I tell them not to bring food but they secretly eat and leave garbage containers of half-eaten scraps in the desks, and on the floor, and stuffed into the cupboards. I tell them I’ve been cleaning this classroom so diligently, that I’ve killed rats and snakes in here, that I am trying to make this classroom a home.
They roll their eyes, “Ok. Ok. Ok. Ok.”
“He’s so mean.”
“What a bully.”
“He's such an ass.”
I listen to them curse me in Chinese. There’s nothing I can do. I wait until class is finished and reach for a broom.
I have tried everything to dissuade it.
I ask them to stop. Set clear guidelines for behavior. Make consequences for rule breaking. Force them to separate. Go to the administration. Call parents. Even write letters home. I council the boys. Sometimes even shame them. But in the end, it’s an epidemic. Nearly one-hundred percent of the boys practice this form of heavy gay-petting in class almost every chance they get. If I turn to write something on the board they touch each other. If I go to help a student, they get out of their seat and wander the room. I find them sitting in the lap of another boy, hips rocking, their hands in each other’s pants.
The Taiwan teachers never stop it. They don’t even bother to address it. Today at my window two boys were hugging each other so violently in a wrestling fervor. They would not separate, but instead grappled and thrusted and banged their crotches into each other. I finally got them to stop but turned around and another couple of boys were heading around the corner hands in each other’s pants.
I went into my classroom and closed the door. I gave up. I simply gave up.
It is raining outside. A driving, pouring, onslaught of rain like a mechanism. I open the door and watch it crush the earth in rising puddles and flooding sewers and pelting ponds. The rain is so loud it overcomes the silence and the students submit so quickly it’s painful.
“Teacher, can we play our cell phones?”
“Teacher, can’t we sleep?”
“Teacher, do you even know how difficult our life is? We have tests every day and cram schools at night and everyone gives us homework?”
I look at this boy, his name is Robert and he just turned sixteen. His uniform is worn threadbare like an old pair of pajamas, brown with holes in the knees, rising above his ankles like he’s grown seven inches over the last four years. I want to tell him this is the easiest time of his life, that it only gets harder from here, that he needs to be more responsible, tougher…for crying out loud, you’re a sixteen year old boy wearing pajamas to school?”
But I just stare at him and let the pounding rain speak.
“You have to put your hands on her. Right on her wrists.”
Both boys recoil and refuse.
“Take your hands and hold her here, touch her here.”
They boy completely refuse, shaking their heads no.
“Listen, she’s not going to bite you. You’re actors. We all understand this.”
The boys are shaking with fear. I feel their body heat. Their shoulders soaked in sweat. I grab them by the arms and pull them closer.
“You must touch her. It’s ok. Lysander, you hold this wrist. Demetrius, you take the other.”
They jerk their arms away in disgust. Helena is staring at me, deeply into me as if she has left her body. I try again, prying the balled up fists of the two boys open and grasping them onto Helena’s wrists.
“See, you didn’t die. Now you pull this way and you pull that.”
The boys are frozen. They cannot move. A musty smell wafts from one boys underarms and I fear the emitting of a bodily fluid. I stand back to direct the scene, to motion for Hermia, Helena’s best friend to come in and say her lines, but the two boys have separated, their arms are crossed in tantrums. Suddenly the bell rings and they are gone. Now I am alone in the room with the mud covered floor and the torrential rain and the loud boys in the hallway wrestling and splashing one another and laughing and I sit down at my desk and wait for the buses to leave.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Last night during basketball this new guy showed up I like to call… “Mr. Clapper.”
Mr. Clapper is a tall, lanky aboriginal Taiwanese with pockmarked maroon skin and deep dark eyes who bounds up and down the court with these long loping skips and strides like a gazelle running from lions and every time his team scores or steals the ball or does anything remotely positive… he stops dead in his tracks and smacks his palms together in a rapid succession of thunderous claps and lets out this wild barbaric “Yelwp! Yelwp! Yelwp!” which fills the gym with savage abandon.
The first time he did it I stopped in amazement. We were already five or six games in and I’m drenched in sweat riding out the last night of my lucky gray shorts and cerulean blue Cambodian t-shirt combo that has served me so well over the past year with incredible games of swooping lay-in drives and raining threes and impossible crossovers that I can attribute to nothing other than…my lucky gray shorts and cerulean blue Cambodian t-shirt.
I like believing in these things. Believing in a fire inside. Even if it’s nothing more than a pair of lucky gray shorts and t-shirt I picked up in a market while trekking some far off temple like Angor Wat.
So it’s the last game and in comes Mr. Clapper and I can tell right away he’s going to be trouble. First, he has a long scraggly ponytail held by a pink scrunchy that flops and bobs up and down the middle of his back. Believe me, nobody wants to play with scrunchy ponytail guy let alone guard him. I watch in disgust as it takes him five minutes to coif his perfect black mane atop his head with a hand mirror then tuck his uniform precisely into the hiked up waistband, pull a pair of white tube-socks over his knees, and start clapping and howling in an incomprehensible war cry. Yelwp! Game on.
So the very first play I come up baseline and catch a pass and turn swiftly to fire a no-look to Peg Leg… (Yes, Peg Leg and his wooden sidekick are still on my team) and Mr. Clapper comes out of nowhere to steal the ball. What? I reach down and unstick the material of my t-shirt from my soaked skin and race back on defense. I’ve been having problems all night. Short on my jumper. Missing bunnies. Now a turnover to Peg on the first play of the game. I can feel it’s definitely NOT my night. When suddenly Mr. Clapper gets right up into my face and starts howling.
“Yelwp! Yelwp! Yelwp!” Then a bursting rapid fire of applauding gyrations and war cries. What? I attempt a steal but the ball soars over my head down to the end of the court for a streaking lay-up. My legs are tired. I’m spent after two hours of sprinting but am ready for this final game. I cross half court and demand the ball, which I get, turn right, patiently dribble to the top of the key, jab and step back. Shoot a quick three. Brick! Mr. Clapper grabs the rebound and tosses it down court again for a streaking lay-up. This time, his hand clapping is even more intense, getting right in my face and shouting.
I shove past him, a little chin music with some extra relish he doesn’t appreciate. It’s all part of the game. But what I do mind is his breath. A lot of Taiwanese have rancid teeth and gums. This is attributed to the fact that teachers give out copious amounts of candy to pacify dissent and so kids grow up with these brown stalactite formations in their mouth or worse…a bright orange gingivitis that resembles a toothless Jack-O-Lantern grinning with bright flaming gums. Totally frightening. Mr. Clapper had one of these mouths on fire. I can see it burning as he screams at me on defense. Slapping the floor and clapping wildly in my chest.
Peg Leg attempts to inbound the ball by throwing it directly to the other team. He backs this up by dribbling off his foot out of bounds. Great. In a matter of minutes were already down 8 points. One more to game point and I’m going to lose my last chance at a tribute farewell to my good luck charm gray shorts and cerulean blue Cambodian t-shirt. Time to get serious or be sent packing.
I come off baseline again, catch the ball at the foul line, spin and shoot. Swish. Then get a steal at the other and go coast to coast. Then assist on a three pointer. Block a shot and assist on a fast break. Just like that we’re back in it. Maybe it's going to be my night after all.
Mr. Clapper’s face is in a murderous scowl and his thunderous hand displays are even louder. Of course, I should mention that I’ve also started being antagonistic by clapping louder than I’ve ever clapped before after each of our plays. Staring right at his ponytail and, “Whoop! Whoop! Whooping!” This obviously, had a dramatic attempt. For now, you see, there are two completely idiotic over-aged buffoons battling for no apparent reason as time on the clock expires. One team headed for victory the other to the showers.
I walk up to the old man and nod, dump my bundle into the small fire opening of his religious pyre, step back as the sparks shoot out, heat blazes, and my bundle burns. The old man looks at me strangely.
Why is this big nosed white foreigner burning his clothes? It was the same look Mr. Clapper gave me the night before when I buried the final shot right in his clapping hands and walked off the court in total silence.
I knew right then I what to do. How to say goodbye. My lucky gray shorts and cerulean blue Cambodian t-shirt, I’d throw their spent luck on the flames. Keep the fire forever inside. Rely on whatever fortune was around the corner and headed my way.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Friday, May 16, 2014
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal..." -Puck
Shakespeare only makes it worse! We practice and practice and practice and the rain falls outside in bathtubs and then the sun comes out and we walk all squishy Oregon toes and wet sneakers into the trees picking garlands and gathering branches for our set... whispering Shakespeare in these kid's ears....for my sake and theirs.
In very likeness of a roasted crab..." -Puck
My old anthology of plays I dragged from the shelves of Colton is starting to mold on the little wooden desk by the classroom door filled with leaves and postcards and four-leaf clovers and funny keepsakes from all the lives I've had the pleasure of living.
And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale..." -Puck
Who doesn't get a number of lives...and Thank God for it.
Sometimes for three-foot stool mistaketh me..." -Puck
Rain seasons shouldn't make one depressed. Rather...Soulful. Mindful. Reflective.
And 'tailor' cries, and falls into a cough
And then the whole quire hold their hips and loff
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there..." -Puck
Gather up all these bodies to do this play with me, for me, because of me...it's my idea hammered and drilled into their lives. A stake to hang something on...anything to splinter the monotony of tests and memorized math problems and formulaic paragraphs of Chinese history.
Sometimes after class...when all these bodies have returned to their world...I stare at the walls for a good long time and count my breaths...then before I know it I'm up...running in the trees...out in the mountain woods. I chose right. This one time, I chose right.