Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shouts in the Hallway of the Hoppy Palace

So many happenings in such a short period of time, so check back soon as I plan on doing a few posts in a row.

 Here's a photo of the elegant frog I found outside our doorstep, who hopped away before I could get a really great shot of him.

News from the "Hoppy Palace Phonics Center" where I work 3 days a week to earn some extra income by tutoring mostly wealthy Chinese children, from the ages of 2 (or sometimes even less than 2!!!) to 7 or 8 years old.  They are mostly brought to their tutoring classes by their full time, live-in Indonesian or Philippino maids.  However, there is one kindergarten aged little girl, I'll call "Ling Ling" whose father has been depositing  her for phonics tutoring on Saturday afternoons.

I'd been having trouble with Ling Ling.  She looks at me with big eyes and will usually not say a word in English, but chatters away in Cantonese to the other students, disrupting my classes.  She scribbles all over her workbook, all over the whiteboard, all over the table, and all over the walls if I'm not quick enough to stop her.   She pinches the other students.  She grabs their colored pencils.  She hides under the table.

I found out that Ling Ling is a recent immigrant to Hong Kong from the mainland of China.  There is a lot of prejudice against "mainlanders", as they are known.  Although they are physically identical to the Hong Kong people, mainlanders tend to dress a little differently.  They seem a little poorer.  When someone  pushes to the front of the usually orderly lines to get into the Metro train -- it's often a "mainlander".  They are suspected of taking jobs from Hong Kong people, they are suspected of abusing the social and medical and housing services which Hong Kong provides its people.

I can't yet understand my students' Cantonese, but I suspect the other 5 students in the small room have been saying things to Ling Ling that she resents.

Her notebook cover and backpack are plain plastic ones, not decorated with Hello Kitty or Thomas the Train or Barbie, like the other children's.

Ok, so last Saturday I came up the elevator to the 19th floor of the Hoppy Palace, and I heard a man  ranting loudly, horribly, who knows what (in Cantonese).  The sound of the voice came from around the corner, but I soon found out it was exactly what I somehow feared -- Ling Ling's father storming at his five year old daughter, whose bright tear-stained angry eyes defied any of us witnesses - 3 or 4 Hoppy Palace staff --  to say a word.  And what word could I possibly say to a man who doesn't understand English, a man who is a recent immigrant, a man who is not as well-dressed as the other tutoring center clients, a man who desperately wants his 5 year old daughter to have the perceived advantage of tutoring by a real live Native English Teacher (me).

So I had more patience with her, this little Ling Ling.  And at the end of the hour I took her aside and gave her an extra candy.  "This is for you, Ling Ling."

What more could I do?

  "I cried like a swift or thrush,
       I moaned like a mourning dove.
       My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
       I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!" 
-- Isaiah 38:14

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