30 May 2011


May 28
Right now, I'm having a hard time even understanding what happened on Thursday (partially because I am trying to erase it from my memory), so it's more difficult to combine it with the themes and ideas from The Canterbury Tales, Kipling's poetry, and A Passage to India.

Maybe what I should do is describe people I've met here, somewhat like Chaucer does. After all, it is complexity that creates humanity and, by the same token, ambiguity. People are rarely so thoroughly corrupt as the monarch in "The Ballad of the King's Mercy." We are more like Dr. Aziz or Mr. Heaslop: good parts and bad parts.

Administrators at the TCV are all graciousness and hospitality. They are as good as anyone I've met. Today, the headmaster, who is an intimidating man due to his intelligence (but who minimizes intimidation by being an extremely courteous host), invited me to sit down, offered me refreshment, introduced me to a computer teacher and gave me a timetable of the remaining computer classes. His polite smile and respect for me calmed my nerves. He was dressed in clothing that was both professional and weather-appropriate--slacks and a button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
Sanjay's friend, a Tibetan teacher from a settlement in southern India, came to the door on Wednesday. He was thoroughly bewildered when I answered the door and thought he'd come to the wrong house. He had thick, beautiful hair and a young face. He was polite, inquiring about my origins and time in India, and he expressed his approval at my developing momo-making skills. He was quite forceful in his opinions about Tibetan politics--he dislikes the new Tibetan Prime Minister as much as he liked the former. He is a pleasant and loyal friend to Trisong.

Amalah, who I met some time ago but am just getting to know, is as sweet as any woman I've ever met. When I was worried that she was mad at me (she hadn't intended to rinse that laundry twice, and I could have moved it but didn't) she just gave me a huge, genuine smile as usual. When she learned that I was sitting on the roof alone she brought a cushion for me to sit on and now she's sitting next to me, studying English while I write.

Let's hope that the goodness of these three will counteract the description of the Jew.

He is not all bad. He is manipulative, he took advantage of a sensitive young Mormon girl, and he would do it again, but he isn't all bad.

I was walking to the bus stop when a stooped, bearded old man wearing a white buttoned shirt, a polyester jacket, cargo pants, flip flops, and a newsie hat asked for my help answering his phone. I would guess that he is in his late 70s. He had Parkinson's and struggled to move at all. Upon learning that I am from Utah he asked if I am Mormon and then asked all manner of questions about my faith. (I thought I was doing good. I think it's within the ISP rules to answer questions about the Church, and I believed him genuinely interested.)

He, being disabled, needed my help to sit down, move to a less bumpy spot on the bench, stand up every 5-10 minutes, walk to the donut shop, feed him ice cream, relieve himself on the side of the road, purchase a drink, locate a straw for that drink, go to the doctor's office twice (this involves me walking backwards across town and bumping into people and things), fetch a chair, purchase tissues, deal with the doctor and nurses, and, most repulsively, rub the foul smelling brown ointment from his rotting legs while I told him what Mormons believe and what Jesus did and who Joseph Smith is and the few things I recall from reading Preach My Gospel. He is embittered of Indian drivers and any person who tries to speak to me about him ("Don't talk to them, it's none of their business, if you tell them what's wrong with me it'll just make it worse"). Eight hours of mine was not enough ("I want to study with you every day"). He is looking for instantaneous healing ("Do they do long-distance healing from Utah? I'm sure someone in your church does"), and he wants to know God, have a long and healthy life, and wealth.

In my defense, I was trying to be Christ-like. I was easy to manipulate. The emotional toll was heaviest--after the good feeling came the awful feeling of being trapped. He wouldn't let me out of his control. The last hour was me saying firmly, "I must go now" and him saying "help me stand up once more . . . do me one more favor . . . please, please buy some tissues and wipe off the ointment so I can roll my pants back down . . . please then will you take the chair back . . . help me stand up again . . . no, you cannot go until you talk to Rosie [Rosie's phone is off] . . . don't go until you talk to Rosie . . ."

I was distraught.

There is always good and bad in people. My view of the Jewish man is forever tainted by the emotional heaviness of that entire day, but there is also good in him just like there is good and bad in me.


  1. Aw Kristen... I am so sorry about that incident... I hope you are doing better today and will be doing better the next. I like where you are going with the Dr. Aziz good and bad in people, but I think he probably has a lot more bad than the good. And I also think it is okay to not note the good, since you clearly did not see any that day. Maybe I am protective and bitter. If it helps you to move past the event then forget everything I am saying.

    Are you enjoying that reading packet? Have you gotten to Street Haunting yet? I'd love to talk about it!

  2. Ah, I'm really so confused about the whole thing! The more I think about it the more I think I overreacted by being as upset as I was, but I think he crossed a line somewhere and I'm not planning to speak to him again. I guess I'm just trying to figure out what my lesson is supposed to be from the experience :) I really appreciate your support, though. I do like the reading packet, though I'm going through it very slowly! I will let you know when I get to the Virginia Woolf piece