Wednesday, September 5, 2012

This Pleases the Cockroaches I Live With Greatly

Karen -

Hey.  Got your keen letter yesterday.  I must say that I'm a bit ashamed of the P.M.S. one I sent you.  Ah, well.

I don't think I mentioned this.  The police have decided to spend their time & $ harassing us poor illegal workers for a while.  I know 5 people who've been deported & at least 10 more who've left in fear.  It seems the cops are going into even the smallest schools & plucking people out.  It's really kind of ridiculous.  They need us - people see English as a necessary thing (not a hobby language) and it makes up a substantial chunk of the economy.  Why cause such a whirlwind every couple of months?  All the teachers leave, the schools get fined & pissed at the old lawmakers, parents get angry at everyone...  And then we all spend a couple months building it back up again, right under the very same legislative and executive noses, only to have it pulled apart again.  It is so stupid.  I will not leave in fear. If someone grabs me by the collar in my classroom they'd better be ready for an earful and a handful.  They will, of course, send me home anyway as I could not argue my way out of doing this illegal thing I have knowingly chosen to do (though the law seems to be a seasonal thing here). 

My point was in starting this that I don't think I'd be overly upset if they made me go home now.  Because you see, I would not then have to make a decision, a rotten decision - I'd have no choice at all.  I've been rather homesick lately - familysick, I mean.  Those babies are all growing up without me pinching their cheeks & giving them stuff their parents don't want them to have.  But I got bills to pay & I really don't know how I'd make money at home.  Besides, I really think I'd better take advantage of my position - hemispherically speaking, that is.  Go see stuff, you know.

Thanks for the pictures.  I happened to open your letter at one of my schools.  The children were just floored by Seph's red eyes.  I guess the red from flashes doesn't happen much with Asian eyes because so little of the eye is exposed to it or something.  They died laughing at the picture of John.  They wouldn't believe he was my little brother.  One of the kids had this to say about the picture (almost an exact translation from Mandarin) "He looks like he doesn't smell nice."  Ah!  Tell him when you see him.

'Favorite color?' Green (varied shades).  'Favorite bands?' a bit of a tie - Almost anything traditional Celtic, James Taylor, Santana, Kate Bush, John's old ditty's he sang on the toilet, Whey Yo Kindergarten Chorus doing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (don't tell the other schools that Whey Yo is my favorite.)...  'My position in the world?'  Linebacker, no doubt.

And yourself?

You just ask, that's how.  It may be a personal fault or feature, but I'll answer any question asked, especially by my family.  I trust people when they are honest enough to ask questions... it's other means of info gathering to be leery of...

You asked about the weather here.  It's just one notch below unbearable for me.  Disgustingly damp with an average of 94 degrees.  This pleases the cockroaches I live with greatly - they are thriving and have invited all their relatives...But I just get used to sweating like a pig.  I've a rickety old fan that doesn't do me much good when the electricity goes out three nights out of five.  Someone told me this was due to night road construction, but I still don't get it.  I did tell you how much the mosquitoes (who live in harmony with the cockroaches & I) love my hairy white skin.  It seems like I've been sweating and scratching for 4 months - because I have.  Ugh.  And 2 more months of this shit before the rains come & cool it down.

'Who are the Taiwanese prejudice against?'  Tough to answer.  They are very proud people - add to this is a bitterness over being a Republic, a part of China - kind of  self-orphaned, but with overbearing foster parents.  There is a sort of prejudice against anything or anyone not culturally Chinese, I think.  But they treat Americans like we are all close relatives of Madonna or Kevin Costner.  I guess, though, that I've heard the most rude remarks directed at Filipinos.  But they don't consider these remarks prejudice at all, they are just fact to them - i.e., of course we all know Filipinos are lazy, that's just the way it is (never mind that all things made in Taiwan are made by Filipinos and Indonesians who live and work in the factories here, away from their families and lives at home).  If you asked someone here about prejudice they'd give you the example of black people and white people in the good old U.S. of A.  To them, it's the only place where racism hangs.  Never mind again an apparent disdain here for the Japanese, Detroit-style...

Hey - I'm glad you included Fuji's address.  I am thinking that I shall pass through Japan on my way home for a visit in January.  Actually, if all goes as planned, I'll be taking a month or more to check out Asia and Indonesia. We'll see.  I'd dig seeing Fuji again.  Had I the cash by then I'd grab Susan when she comes & go check it out in October.  But I doubt that's possible.

Oh.  You say your other letters were too mushy or too abstract.  For who, buddy-boy?  You underestimate me if you doubt my grasp of either.  Bring it on.

I feel like I haven't really started this letter yet, but as I look it over I see it's time to end.  Tell everyone hello.  Tell mom to write - ha.

I miss you.  You write a mean letter. More, more.

Love and Peace,
Shin Tai Rae

Written to my sister 22 years ago  (1990, probably in about May or June) during my 18 months as an undocumented and illegal teacher of English and Spanish in Taiwan, R.O.C.  It arrived in today's mail from Karen.  All this time she saved this little piece of my little story and sent it back to me.  A whole lot more, not written on the pages, comes back to me with it. Thank you, my sistah.

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