Copyright 2013 by Murray Kibblewhite
“Our lives are marked with a series of events, encounters, and turning points that in one way or another stamp our outlook on life and move us in this direction or that. Ultimately, our responses to these events shape us into who we are today. If we can view these circumstances of our lives as aspects of our very own story, our unique pathway through life, then we can make the journey more conscious, and we can open to it.” Cheryl Peppers & Alan Briskin – Bringing Your Soul to Work. An Everyday Practice – BK 2000
“Jing I am surprised at your attitude,” the Math teacher said sternly. “You have fallen behind because you have not been listening.”
Jing did not say anything and kept looking down at the floor. In her mind she was asking why he had not helped her, but she kept silent.
“And asking a question in class is forbidden. This is a top school in Beijing and I am surprised at you being so rude to me!” There was long pause, but Jing held her tongue knowing she must not speak. “So your punishment of standing in the hall outside the class will show you that you must obey the rules at all times and you must never question a teacher such that they could lose face.”
The teacher shouted, “Remember, do as you are told. Do not answer back and do what the others do. Understand?” Jing nodded, still staring at the floor. “Good. Now go!” The teacher dismissed her with a wave of his hand.
“Careful now! You are only nine so use both hands!” Jing nodded her head obediently to her Grandmother as she struggled holding the heavy pail. This was the first time she had been asked to help carry the toilet bucket to empty it in the village cesspit for the night cart to take away. She screwed up her face when the smell wafted under her nose.
First they had lifted the bucket from its position from under the earth closet seat in the latrine shed outside. Then they placed a wooden cover on the top of the bucket to stop it from spilling. Grandmother had to bend over to make her self lower so they could share the weight of the bucket evenly between them as they walked to the cesspit building. Halfway they stopped and changed sides. Jing was happy as her arm ached with the weight she had been holding up.
“Com’on,” Grandmother instructed and they started the rest of the trip.
There were others waiting their turn to empty their buckets so Jing was grateful for the rest. At the building Grandmother showed her where to stand, how to hold the handle with two hands and together they started to lift the bucket. The tipping went well, but not all had emptied and Jing because of aching arms, one hand slipped and she pulled the bucket back too quickly so some feces spilled on her pants.
“Ugh!” Jing screamed, jumping back, shaking her herself and letting go of the handle. Some of the other people laughed at her mishap.
“Foolish girl!” Grandmother commented and started to clean up the mess on the floor . When she had finished, she wiped Jing’s pants saying, “We will wash this before we get home.” Grandmother carried the empty bucket in one hand and pulled Jing with her other, who was now crying in shame.“Let that be a lesson for you. Remember to prepare carefully before you start anything new.”
“What happened? Why are you crying?” Jing turned away not answering, unsure if she should tell her friend. “Tell me?” Yiyi questioned gently. “Why are you crying?”
“He made me stand outside,” Jing whispered. “Outside in the corridor!”
“Why?” Yiyi demanded. “What did you do?”
“I… I asked him a question, ” Jing whimpered, too distraught to give more details.
“What! You asked him a question! You stupid person. You know you must not question a teacher,” Yiyi exploded. “And he is the worst,” she added.
“I couldn’t help it. I needed to know the new formula,” Jing sobbed. “And I had to stay out of the classroom for over two hours.”
“You lucky, lucky girl!” Yiyi retorted. “I heard he punched a boy student so hard blood came from his mouth!”
Jing sniffed back her sobs, taking in the new information, but did not say anything.
“You must learn to obey the rules and do what you are told,” Yiyi exclaimed. “You are so silly!”