Thursday, November 10, 2011

Culture Corner: China - A Couple of Crimes

Just when I’d gone and bragged the Chinese up to be a peaceful, happy folk, I had to go and participate in a crime.

Walking home the other night after teaching, passing those out trying to catch what little hint of a breeze moves through this city these hot days of summer.  I was minding my own thoughts when a man went bolting past me. As I watched him tear away, I thought to myself: “The only reason a man runs that fast is if he’s stolen something.” A split second later a girl’s voice cut the air, shouting what I interpreted as “thief” without knowing the Chinese word for thief. For reasons I’m still trying to figure out, I took off after the man, dress clothes, and backpack bouncing on my back, all on an adventure.

Hot on the man’s heels, I was unable to make up any ground.  Merely keeping pace, we ran through side streets, gravel parking lots and small lanes, all the while – though she was doing a good job of keeping up - the shouts of the girl faded behind us. Passing gaping onlookers, we probably ran for a 1/2 a mile.  While running, I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the thief, other than that he was still in front of me and that I “needed” to catch him (for some reason).  But looking up one time, I saw him turn around, do a cartoon-style, disbelieving double take, and then throw the purse he had stolen to the ground. I stopped running, picked it up, and brought it back to the girl, who, in her own rush of adrenaline, had forgotten: “My English is very poor.” and exclaimed: “Thank you very much. This is very important.” in breathless tones of perfect English. (Adrenaline does wonders.)  I then continued home - walking. That’s the story of crime #1 I was participant to.

The second is, in my opinion, an even funnier story about the nature of crime in China and shows just how cutthroat the business of teaching English is.

One of the English schools where I teach is fairly well to do, and rightfully so, as they are well organized, professional, and offer the “latest” technology to the students. They have lesson plans worked out for every grade of student, from Beginner to Advanced, which alleviates a great  deal of lesson planning for the teachers and provides something that can be used systematically without reinventing the wheel.  The other day, someone hacked into the school’s computer system and stole all of these lesson plans.

Am I the only one who finds this funny? American hackers try to find ways to bypass Hotmail’s firewalls to grace your screen with ads for herbal Viagra (“Get a stiffy in a jiffy!”) while Chinese hackers find ways to steal English lessons. Priorities, priorities, priorities…

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