Monday, October 16, 2006

3 Scenes

This morning, before dawn, it rained. Not much, just a little, but enough to clear the skies of some of its usual filth. I capitalized on a beautiful, free morning, and did my studying outdoors, flipping through flash cards at a stone table in front of my dorm. A trio of men, two dressed in the garb of Buddhist monks, walked past.

One stopped, and asked if I was studying hanyu-- Chinese. I was. They had come from Tibet to study religion at Beijing University, and they are part of a small but noticeable population of monks on campus. He insisted my hanyu was exceedingly fluent, I insisted otherwise, we said our goodbyes, and he went off to class.

I sat outside on Sunday, contemplating the morning. A woman, an employee of the school, rode past on her three-wheeled bicycular contraption, into which she deposits the contents of the campus' trash bins. She stopped, picked up a can, and emptied the garbage into the back of her vehicle.

After replacing the can, she peered over the edge of her depository, inspecting the catch. She reached in, and pulled out a small mirror, which someone had thrown away. Holding it in her dirty hand, she looked at herself, turned her face to the side, and adjusted an earring. She put the mirror in the basket on the front of her bike, and rode on.

I sat in an immaculate, brand new classroom of brushed steel and white boards on pulley systems. I was there after hours, studying hard, and in silence, along with half a dozen Beida students, scattered around the room. The tranquility was shattered by a snipping sound coming from the back of the room.

An older man-- perhaps a student, perhaps a loafer of some sort-- sat back in his chair, books closed lazily in front of him. His hands were at his face, and he was trimming his nosehair with a pair of fingernail clippers. He was at it for minutes on end, snip, snip, snipping away; first his nosehair, then his facial hair. I went back to work.

Speaking less abstractly, a fresh column appears in today's Tufts Daily. I address the timely topic of North Korea's nuclear experimentation, and draw dramatic conclusions. Enjoy it here. Call me nitpicky, but I wish to mention this qualifier: the title is kind of dumb. I was planning to (cleverly) call it "Nukes for Kooks," but submitted to my editors, along with a few other possible titles, the concern that Kooks was perhaps too easily mistaken for Gooks (which, my dictionary tells me, can be used as a derogatory term not just for Vietnamese, but for Filipinos and Koreans as well). Not wanting to be labeled a racist, I left the decision to my editors.

They came up with their own title, which, in my opinion, makes no sense: "Nukes for Dummies." From this title, I feel readers are bound to draw one of two assumptions about the article, both of which are incorrect. 1: By referencing the not-particularly helpful self-help book series, the title suggests I am somehow going to explain "Nukes." I'm not. I don't understand them. 2: Koreans are Dummies. They're not. In fact, I've met a very nice, very smart girl of North Korean descent while at Beida. Even Pres. Kim isn't a "dummy," per se... more just a kook.

While I'm at it, if you thought my last column, "Stormy Straits," was a little bit choppy and/or asinine, I'd be happy to provide you with the full, unedited version. Just send me an e-mail.


Anonymous George said...

those monks sound nice...

19/10/06 9:59 PM  

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