Asia America

  It was

  It was like a building that held The Blues, the synchronized groaning of agonized souls, set to a cadence beat out on the hollow desk-tops of inner-city schools across the country: Palm-palm-pencil! Palm-palm-pencil! “Boom-boom-clack! Boom-boom-clack!”

From the mouths of every student, stories of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunties and uncles murdered, dead or in prison. The stories varied, getting better, more spectacular, as they encouraged each other along in their telling, acting out, writing, rewriting, and rewriting, animating, adding detail, retelling, re-acting out, etc… I wish I could print those stories exactly how the students wrote them, themselves. But they were tossed in the trash, with everything else in my classroom, upon order of the school principal. I still have the memories though. Here are a few stories:


Detroit Diary October 4

Abuse of all types were rampant in this school. Kids always seemed to come to school in a sort of post-traumatic haze. They rocked back and forth and moaned, or got angry at chairs and desks, broke them to pieces right there in the class. They stabbed each other will pencils for fun, stumbling across the room and tripping so as to make it look like an accident when Khalid or Shabazz received a pencil to the neck.

Fornication was the norm too. Girls liked to entice boys into closets for a quickie. One kindergarten student had been caught molesting his peers during nap time, not once, but three times. The school discussed these issues with the grandparents, but to no avail. Finally they requested that the grandparents find a new school, and the boy was moved. 


Detroit Diary September 19

 Upon ending The Diaries back in 2005. I embarked on an elementary student-teaching experience at an American military base in Okinawa, Japan. Here I was teamed up with an angry and obese Catholic woman who immediately informed me that men should not be allowed to teach in elementary schools, and so I should remain three feet away from the children at all times. Then she introduced me to her teacher’s assistant, a young army brat, assigned by my mentor to the name Chocolate Swirl. Needless to say this young lady was, like my own children, an incredibly beautiful and highly intelligent, mutt.


Mother-in-law Diaries Jan 2003

The Beat January 2003

10-24-02

This Saturday I follow Alex as he makes the rounds through our neighborhood. All up and down our street, ajummas sit gossiping, shucking garlic or picking persimmons off trees. Alex greets each group but is intent on a specific place. We reach a courtyard entrance and he clicks the ringer. The gate swings open and an old man pops his head out of the front door to greet us. Alex bows, takes off his flip-flops before leading me into a bedroom where a high school girl sleeps off last night‘s study session. Alex proceeds to shake the poor girl, and when that doesn‘t work he pulls her blanket off and grabs her hair, saying, “get up” in Korean.

Sometimes when I walk down in our local market strange men and women yell to me, “Alex Papa!”

10-28-02


Soi Min Part 3

The Karen clans, Soi Min tells me, fare the worst of all the clans in Burma. Some of Battle Creek’s refugees are Karen. Typically they have almost no education, and they’ve seen unspeakable atrocities. Yet they’re kind, polite and hungry for education.

Having so much experience with well-adjusted Korean ESL students, I tend to approach my Burmese students with the same level of animation that Koreans have. So I’ve walked towards new Karen students ready to shake their hands and pat them on the shoulder.

But when a Karen sees you approach in this way, he has this look about him, this posture that says that maybe you’d better slow down and back up a foot or two. Keep in mind most of these refugees are about five-foot tall. It doesn’t matter. You can sense that it’s best to tread lightly.


Soi Min Part 2

I asked Soi Min where he was stationed, “Mizoram, Bangladesh and Chin State in Northern Burma.”

I asked what he ate, “Bamboo shoots and snails,” he smiled, like a fox, swallowing a mouthful of buttered yam. I asked about rice, “We carried only rice and matches. Sometimes only matches.”

He said that that the Mizoram, clans from Northeast India, supplied (and supply) medicine and beans. Sometimes his unit and other rebel units cultivated gourd and corn in the jungle. During seasonal Spring and Harvest they bought pigs and feasted with villagers. During monsoon they hid in bamboo thickets so thick that nobody bothered them except leaches and mosquitoes.

I told him that I know all about Himalayan leaches! How they stick like the worst kind of booger! Like sticky white rice, only sucking your blood at a magnificent rate, all brown and hard and swollen on the main vein of your thigh.


Soi Min from Mizoram Part 1

I am unemployed, broke, in debt and dependent on my parents. I can’t to receive unemployment benefits for another six months. I have the flu, asthma, possibly a hernia –  and no Medicaid. I ’m not speaking to my brother, and don’t want to speak to my mother. Right now I am hiding in my parent’s basement hoping to get some time to myself. Man I could cry you a river all night if you wanted me to.

But instead I will tell you that this was the best Thanksgiving since my Benjamin was born!

What happened was that I started volunteering to teach English to Burmese refugees this year.

Soi (pronounced Soy) Min, his wife Sui (pronounced Swee), and their daughter May O Wee are Burmese refugees from Delhi. They’ve been in Battle Creek only months. They live on refugee status and cannot work until they have their green cards. They have no transportation, and only a few Burmese friends. So they’re isolated, confused and depressed.


Original Mother-In-Law Diary

Sometimes I look at the other expats here, living the wild single-guy lifestyles we westerners imagine so unique, edgy, cool. Booze and broads and late-night drunken motor-scooter adventures in our Korean-Western micro-culture here in Busan. Then I wonder if my lot is rather dull. I am not one, as much as I have tried at times, to enjoy the Gonzo, too-cool lifestyle. I‘m married, with two kids, and live with my mother-in-law. I work a hellish schedule, hoping to one day afford economic opportunities for my wife and boys, and of course for me. It‘s dull. I get sick of the brats and mothers, and college class-skippers and crying babies, day in and day out, a seemingly never-ending cycle.


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