In the morning, I touched C’s hand.

I have been pestering her about her maths, because last week, she asked for help on a question, and I helped her with half of it. Then I asked if she could do the rest. She said yes, so I let her. Then I forgot to see if she had done it correctly and if she really knew. Sometimes, until children know me well, they lie. They say they can do things that they cannot do and understand things they don’t understand. I have to look at what they have to see.

In C’s case, it is okay—she is not my student and her academic performance is not exactly my responsibility—but she asked. So I want to see whether I have done what she asked me to do or not, which is to help her understand.

Anyway, she forgot the paper where the question is written at home. I have asked her about it three times this week, and each time she didn’t have it. She didn’t have it, so I said, “Give me your hand.” This being Country X, she held out both her hands. I wrote the reminder on it. People here write things on their hands all the time. They don’t wash that much, that’s part of it. A reminder written on a hand at 9 in the morning might still be there at 9 in the evening. But I wrote it on her hand for her, because she would remember that. She would remember a teacher writing on her hand, and I also did it for her because I think she’s a little afraid of me. The children here are afraid of teachers, and it can take a long time with some student before they are not afraid. Once they stop being afraid, I have to teach them self-control, because they don’t have any. They have only fear.

I wrote on her hand and she laughed and we both went off after that to do our work.

It wouldn’t matter, again, because she is not my student, except that part of my job as the foreign teacher is to encourage the use of English in school and this should probably extend beyond my own classroom. Frightened children do not learn language skills.

Anyway, I did that.

Later, I began to realize how much this had affected me. I touch other children here—I am much more physically affectionate with the students here than I would be in my own country. It seems to help with something in terms of building that relationship which helps children feel comfortable and confident with the teacher so that they can learn. But with American students, it would not do this. It would feel intrusive.

The point is really just that the touch was not really unusual. It’s just that a part of me experiences it that would not experience it with a different child. It gets processed in a different way.

The thing is that C’s hand was warm. And Nata, the last time I touched her, was cold. Laila was cold because she was dead, but Nata was cold even when she was alive because she was in shock and because she had lost an enormous amount of blood. People who have lost a lot of blood feel cold. So, again, it’s this juxtaposition in my mind of the living body and the dying body.

In the morning, as I am cooking and doing the chores, I ponder something that seems to be related to this. I often have the thought, “This is my body.” And it seems to be about being alive and having sensations: Living bodies have sensations; dead bodies don’t. And I think I am trying to grasp this confused juxtaposition of life and death in my mind that I couldn’t process as a kindergartener. Some people are dead or dying and some people are alive, and my body is alive. It has sensations, it is warm, it responds to my complex neurological system. Dead bodies don’t. I am not dead.