Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks Given, Psyches Taken

I don't mean to be morbid, but the gastronomically sanctioned family gathering that is Thanksgiving for the U.S. is diverted and gashed upon by the terrorism and carnage in Mumbai. Strangely, this attack might bring estranged families closer together--the unbearable company you have had years of 20th century baggage with, is at least alive and cannot personally terrorize you as coordinatedly as extremist young 20-somethings with nothing to lose can on the largest, most important commercial city in India. It's a new world, greater boundaries have been crossed, old grudges may need to be dropped to conserve the psychic energy needed to withstand all the crisis at hand--micro, macro, mercurial.

If I didn't have to teach 8 class periods on this 4th Thursday, which really has no bearing here in Shanghai, I would have joined other Americans at a 4-star hotel like the Portman Ritz-Carlton for my dose of turkey and fixins. Could not muster the energy or the 50 U.S. bucks. It does hit home when low-tech terrorists don't annihilate everything at once and actually request the heads of British and U.S. nationals. That kind of personalized hatred surely resonates: your patriotism or your life? Which would you choose? Take out your passport, now!

I was gobbled up by the CNN coverage.

Despite all of the frustrations and inefficiencies and caps on freedom in my present, I've got lots to be thankful for. I'm in Shanghai, for american sakes, this strange, ancient, new, dilapidated, quickly-constructed lunar landscape.
I have a job that allows me to save most of my earnings and grants me a 4-day weekend every week.
I am thankful to have 8 classes of these fresh-faced students, all the single pride of their families, all constantly worried about the next test, some naturally gifted with an ear for language, some profoundly bored by the English language (to the impatient tune of uncovered yawns), and most willing to robustly repeat after me in a choral call and response that truly warms my cockles. The cold actually betters their attention than the lazy warmth of fall.
A few have that 'IBM nap' down where they can be sitting up straight but actually snoozing, though a few of the few can even text while seeming to be super-studious. My text-dar is getting really good, and I collect the phone 'til the end of class, which is slightly traumatic, but then they just resort to the 'IBM nap' or try to telepathically finish that last text.
And the serendipitous wonders of vocabulary visuals. I love how Martin Scorsese shows up here as the waving pharmacist.

I am thankful to be a simple gal. All I really need is a clean, well-lighted place to write and think. The more bare the better. This is my potato patch which I can so gloriously couch in.
I am thankful, as you know from blogs past, for the cafeteria, which I am given monthly credit to eat at. Here is tofu, greens and eggs, and seaweed. 
For Thanksgiving, I had this seaweed and also crisp, stir-fried broccoli, which I got 'to go,' so I could eat at my leisure as I watched live footage from Mumbai. Also, so I could make my favorite whole wheat noodles with sesame oil, soy and a superb chili combo of crushed red chilis and peppercorns, and toasted sesame seeds. No triptophane this year. I make the noodles here,
which I am, yes, thankful for. Along with a super cool bathroom, where the sink sits atop a huge drawer where all toiletries and clutter can easily be stored away. 
I really am so simple (or bourgeois?) that this sink combo makes me so happy. Along with my two-button flush toilet. It's a big round button on top, but split in half. Push the left half, it's a small flush, for the light tinkles. Push the right half, and it's a medium flush. Press both halves together, and it's a full flush that will keep flushing until all is cleared and gone. Why are not all toilets like this? I am thankful to be able to conserve water, but not shortchange efficiency and need.

These are the materials of my life that allow me to live as close to my core and natural mind as I ever have. The rest is time and space to wonder. I am thankful everyday to wake up to this:
To debrief last night's dream (and figure what that was all about). Or to read Rumi. Or to jot in the red book. Or figure the next blog topic. Or notice history repeat or transgress itself with Zinn's People's History of the United States. Or wonder the global toll on the modern psyche. Or think of how China's superpower personality differs from the U.S.'s superpower personality. How both places rely on either big-time money or self-resilience. How both places deny dignity in its societal care for the citizens. How if both continue to play hardball to maximize profits, and continue to strip dignity, the citizens will have nothing to lose. Or listen to the ducks. Or watch the clouds roll by. Or enjoy the silence. Or welcome unexpected visitors.



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