Yesterday was really hectic. I’m meeting C at 7:30 in the morning to help her with her math. She was late yesterday—she had a project to finish—and I thought she wouldn’t come at all. But she did. In the evening, there is another boy from Class 6—not my student, but I know him—who asked for my help as well. I told him he could come to my house on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. Yesterday was Tuesday, but I thought he wouldn’t come. I thought he wasn’t actually that interested, that he was only worried during exam period, then the worry was going to wear off. But he came. So I taught more or less from 7:45 in the morning until 6 at night, when I made him leave. I had two periods free, but other people kept coming and talking to me and interrupting. I couldn’t do anything properly, and my work got done mostly at recess and lunch, which isn’t enough time. So it was stressful, not really being prepared for class, not having time to process helping C in the morning.
Normal life involves taking a lot in, it seems, and everything get filtered via the lens of trauma. I can’t just say it’s different now, and filter it through a new lens. Trauma is the only lens I have. I have to use the one I have and refine it. It takes time. Which is why I woke up today at 2 am.
I had these vague notions the rest of the day that something was wrong about C—the session went well, but somehow parts of me got the idea that something was wrong. It kept me on edge the rest of the day, this feeling that something was wrong, but I couldn’t place it.
I did something to C when I saw her that I hadn’t meant to. It had to do with a touch. I touch the students here more than I would in the United States. I am not sure why. It seems to build the relationship between us. So I touch C sometimes when I see her, mostly her arm. And I thought she wouldn’t come—I was happy she had. I saw her and I put my hand on her arm—she was carrying a basket with her lunch inside it—and it was like my hand then didn’t know what to do with itself and after a second I realized it had landed almost at her hand. My thought was that I had gotten mixed up. Some part of me thought I was with the puppy pile again, and that I ought to hold her hand. I took my hand gently away at that point, but inside I was completely alarmed. It wasn’t anything much, I think. She did not react in any way and it is not as wildly inappropriate here as it would be back home. But it crossed a line with me.
So I was upset about that. I didn’t really realize how upset I was until later. There was just the idea that I had crossed a line for myself, and it was a line in my head that is there to keep her safe and I felt afraid I had hurt her.
But it did something else to me—the whole session with her upset me in a different way—because it seems to me, after much deliberation about what it is I am taking in, that she trusts me almost entirely. More than other students do, more than American students ever trust their teachers. I don’t think she has any idea I could ever do anything wrong. If I hurt her, she would assume the hurt was her own fault. Some Country Xers are just like that. They are trusting. They have no concept of deception or that someone else might not be acting from entirely benign motives. And maybe C is just like that.
The sense of power it gives me is enormous and terrifying. I don’t want that much power. I don’t feel that trustworthy or that perfect. I think also I have never seen power used in positive ways. I have seen it used only to hurt and control people, not to nurture or to guide anyone, not to try to help.
In addition, I think it comes out in her manner in a way that reminds me of fear and the obedience we had to display to Yuri. I think I feel I must be Yuri at times, and that I have done something terrifying to her that I don’t remember so that she behaves that way. I forget that some of it is merely culture. She was brought up to be polite: this is what politeness looks like here. I know what polite looks like, but not every kid here has beautiful manners.
That’s the second thing that feels “wrong” to me.
Then also she did very well in the session. I mean, she got something down she hadn’t before, but she wasn’t happy. Not unhappy, just she didn’t get that rush of pride you instinctively feel when you understand something and can do it. I don’t know why. She showed me her work with these worried little eyes: “Did I get it right?” But she had worried eyes when a different student would have known it was right. It would have felt “right.” I said it was right and she still didn’t get that happy look of pride.
That is something else that felt “wrong” to me. Why doesn’t she know? I don’t have an answer to that.
And now it’s time to get ready.
Life is complicated though. Every single day. Sometimes it seems like I’m caught up in minutiae—in details that don’t matter—but this is how stuff gets processed. This is how I know where I was and where I am now, what my life once was and what it has become.