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A lesson in Hegemony.

It’s that thing that gets the better of me, as a foreigner in China. Things have been going well here and we’ve gotten into the rhythm of school and mum’s lecture schedule and now comes along this Dragon Festival, which we are looking forward to figuring out what that means. The first thing we learn is that Monday – Wednesday will be a holiday for the city. Great! Now we have some extra time to show our girl the places that she won’t get to see except on weekends since she is in school. Mum wants to know about her lecture schedule, how will this effect what’s to come – oh, no worries, we’re doubling up the lectures. Okay. But no one thinks to tell us, nor do we think to ask what about school for AEB. I mean, in the States when there’s a holiday – it’s a holiday. You take the days off and that’s that. Well, apparently that’s not that here. It’s Saturday morning I get a call around 11 am from Christina who has heard from Ms. Zhao asking about our girl and where she is, why is she absent from school today? Um, it’s Saturday and there’s no school. Oh, dear. Oh dear, but everyone knows. No. Everyone does not know and this is hegemony. When the majority take it for granted that something is known by ALL when it’s not. When you’re new in town and you don’t know how are you to know unless someone tells you, or you learn by trial and error – mostly error. This makes me frustrated. Actually, this is the one thing that really makes me viscerally frustrated with being in China for any real length of time. It reminds me so clearly of why I did not stay on another year as a teacher. And why, when I toy with the idea that I could actually make a life here, hegemony reminds me that I’m not sure I’d want that for myself or family. Grr.

Christina was all apologies and said that this was a mistake on her part for not thinking of finding out or telling us. She’d assumed (as part of the majority that takes this knowledge for granted) that as she was sorting out mum’s questions regarding her schedule that we would know that AEB’s school would be making up the lost time by having classes on Saturday and Sunday. Sigh. I’m all for living in other countries and experiencing other cultures and ways of doing things, but when you have a holiday – have a holiday. Don’t give people a holiday and then take it away by making them work the days missed. To me, at least, it seems to rather defeat the purpose calling it a holiday. I suppose with so many of these festivals within a year the government has to figure out a way to get work done, so this is the best way to do it. But it is rather hard on those of us not accustomed to the rhythm of these things.

Oh, and I did not rush to gather up AEB and run her over to school and I don’t even know if I will do so for her tomorrow, even though that would mean five days away from the rhythm of school and full immersion of language. I’ll have to sleep on it and decide around 3 am.

In the meantime, AEB and I had a delightful day of building a hamster run with toilet paper rolls and empty cereal boxes. I had thought she might want to make a robot since she’s been enjoying old episodes of “The backyardigans”. Yes, I know she’s “too old” for them, but have you stopped to actually watch the show? It’s rather impressive. Not only does the show have great imagination, but these little characters introduce lots of wonderful music genres and, and they dance. Yes, they do. They dance hip-hip, they dance jazz, and tap, flamenco and the paso doble, Tomy Tune, and Martha Grahm. It’s impressive considering they’re computer animated and their limbs are short, but any dance teacher could tell you that the moves are true and might even inspire a few young persons to go out and dance. Well, if AEB is anything to go by, they are. She’s been trying to learn the moves to a dance in an episode about robots. I watched her little uncoordinated limbs trying out the steps and smiled to myself. She was also contemplating Halloween costumes involving being one of the same robots she was watching. But let’s get back to the hamster run, which started out to be a robot but never got off the ground because our girl couldn’t make it exactly like those she’d seen on the iPod and was about to have a royal fit until we talked over the process and she turned things around and into a hamster run. We have no hamster, but who needs a real one when you have an imagination.

And now it’s Sunday and I did decide to take AEB off to school. I got things ready to shuttle her out the door and went to wake her up and found her bundled up under the covers feeling a bit homesick. “I want to go home now. I miss Alistair and Butterfly”. I understood and talked her though it – we haven’t done our gift shopping yet and she hasn’t purchased the bring homes that she has been planning to buy since before we even arrived! Once we got that part taken care of she asked about going to church and then I explained about a holiday not being a holiday. I then said that this was one of those times when we say…and she broke in with,” 这是中国” (Zhè shì zhōngguó). That’s my girl! She learns fast. I did let her know that it wasn’t something that we said out in public, but rather something that is used just amongst ourselves. She said she understood and then let out a sigh. She was fine heading over, but we were running late and the teacher had rearranged the room. This must get done every week. I wonder if it has something to do with avoiding dependency upon the desk for accessing information for tests. If you aren’t familiar with the idea, here it is: Studies have found that if you prepare for an exam in one place rather than going to different places in your house, or to a library, or where ever, that you become dependent upon that space to access what you’ve memorised for the test. This is why, if you’ve ever studied for an exam in your room and then gone off confident in your knowledge but bombed the test, you can’t access the information when you need it for the test. You sit there, test in hand, seeing yourself in your room, seeing the textbook in front of you, seeing the page that the answer to the question is on, but you cannot see the answer. Your brain is dependent upon being in the space to know the information. This is why it’s better to study all over the house, or in lots of different spaces – your brain doesn’t become dependent upon one space to access the information needed. So, I wonder if this is the reasoning for the school to switch the seating around on a weekly basis. However, AEB wasn’t not too happy about the new arrangement. She was still in the back of the room, but there was no wall to hide up against. She was none to thrilled to find that her seat was next to someone, no isle to separate herself, or to help make herself small and as unnoticed as possible. I understand her feelings. It’s not easy being the centre of so much admiration and scrutiny. It’s tough being a rock star.

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