For two years at a particular university I experienced severe emotional abuse by a religious group that was sponsoring me along with a young couple and their two young sons. I will be telling about it in the next several autobiographical posts. It was harder to bear than even my first year in China with brain-washing.
Mr. and Mrs. CEO blew in for the day. They head up a professional Christian organization in the States that places Christian professionals in universities of nations around the world. Professor and Mrs. E. with their two little boys had been assigned, along with me, by this organization to this university.
“I don’t want any arguments! This is what we’ll have for lunch,” Mrs. CEO emphasized as we sat around a large table in a very expensive restaurant.
She ordered dishes she had no idea about and since we had no say in the matter, we could only eat what our stomachs would allow. Tripe! I refused to eat that. Finally she asked me what tripe was and I explained that it was the intestines used as casing for various stuffings.
“No wonder it is so chewy!” she exclaimed.
Then the other adults decided not to eat any more of it, either. The E.s commandeered the conversation with their precocious little son with the result that no serious conversation could take place even though we were eager for fellowship with Christians from the States. Professor E. showcased little Jimmy, the young couple’s eldest son, and I wondered if it was a tactic to avoid any genuine exchange.
It didn’t seem that they planned any time to talk with me, so I requested an hour during the afternoon with the CEO’s wife, to listen to my outlandish, angry, condemning tirade (that’s how it came back to me) before ending the day at a banquet hosted by our Foreign Affairs Office. During “my hour” that afternoon I mentioned the political prison just one block from campus and heavy artillery fire that could be heard day and night with helicopters flying low overhead. The CEO scoffed.
“So what! That goes on all over China (I’d never heard it until now, and I’d been in various places in China nine years by this time). We have it all over America, too. We hear heavy artillery fire outside XX day and night.”
“This university didn’t promise to reimburse the flight money until the end of the school year. My wife told you explicitly in front of our treasurer that you had better take enough money to live on for at least a month.” This emphatic advice must have gone entirely over my head, and the treasurer’s.
I pointed out that we had no copies of the contracts we signed.
The promised exchange of Yuan for US dollars had not been forthcoming and the exchange percentage was arbitrarily reduced from 50% to 30%. This exchange of Yuan for US Dollars is how I managed to save enough money to buy round trip plane tickets year after year and it was crucial to my continuing service in China.
I was working 16 classroom hours a week as a writing teacher when the normal load for a “foreign expert” was 12 hours. Considering that my hours were for composition, I was in my room marking papers about 40 hours a week. Professor E. had 8 classroom hours and Mrs. E. had 4.
Our documents cost us between 800-1,000 Yuan although the university was supposed to be responsible for this cost.
We are required to go to the telephone office to pay our telephone bills by ourselves (the Foreign Affairs Office refused to help us) although not one of us speaks the local dialect or understands the billing. My phone was actually disconnected for two weeks before I realized I was expected to pay the bill for whoever occupied this room before I did.
Professor E.’s family and I have computers, never mind that all the (pirated) software is in Chinese and we don’t read Mandarin.
Believe it or not, none of these issues were important enough for the CEO to negotiate. What’s more, I was forbidden to address the proper officials with any of these issues! Professor E. would take care of all the negotiations although this was his first experience outside the United States and he knew nothing of Chinese culture!
During my hour with Mrs. CEO, she commented, “We thought you were more professional than that,” referring to my first newsletter which had to be submitted to them before it could be sent to my family and friends. “It was discouraging.” Not discouraged-sounding. I had the impression that they were concerned with what my family and friends might think, rather than with my need to let those who prayed for me know what was happening or not happening with me.
Regarding the broken promises, very expensive contract with the university officials, and clever escalation of classroom hours I commented that there were Chinese contingencies for everything. Promises broken are good strategy in a country where the national currency is not exchangeable, and resorting to law is meaningless because those who make the laws are above the law. Mrs. CEO pointed out that the Chinese believe they are born pure; they really don’t know right from wrong. I said nothing more; her world view was something less than adequate.
“We possess this precious treasure in frail human vessels of earth
that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power
may be shown to be of God and not from ourselves.
We are hedged in on every side – troubled and oppressed in every way,
but not cramped or crushed;
we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out,
but not driven to despair….
For our light, momentary affliction
(this slight distress of the passing hour)
is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing
and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory….
Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen
but to the things that are unseen;
for the things are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting),
but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting.
II Corinthians 4: 7-8; 17-18
Ending the day at a Foreign Affairs banquet, the CEO and his wife repeatedly brought the conversation around with religious terms such as “redemption” and “salvation.” Chinese officials have little idea of this type of vocabulary other than to be offended with the perpetuation of American colonialism. This misguided zeal makes the building of trust more difficult for the Christian teachers who must remain and earn the confidence of those who don’t know our Lord and Savior. I was ashamed of Mr. and Mrs. CEO. Didn’t they realize that one must earn the right to speak of sensitive matters to a Chinese friend, and speaking of such personal things in public was dishonoring to one’s relationships, if not risky?
As a result of this visit, the following day the hotel management stopped student visits to our apartments. One of my students with a prior appointment was turned away with a violent verbal exchange, not even being allowed the courtesy of using the reception desk phone to cancel the appointment with me. Other foreign teachers were livid at the counterproductive attempt to restrict contact between Chinese students and foreign teachers outside of class without realizing what had caused the change. In-class instruction is inadequate because students need to use English in practical settings to develop vocabulary, sentence structure, inflections and logical responses in real conversations. Forbidding students to interact with their foreign teachers is not common, fortunately, and is an indication of the strong local reaction to a Christian presence.
Closing the hotel to our students was ostensibly to protect us since murder of foreigners is on the rise in China. However, rooms are rented on our floor to Chinese willing to pay more than for first floor rooms, and strangers roam our 4th floor hall, looking in our doors and windows.