Tuesday, June 29, 2010

“Poverty” by Martial


(In which the ones who grumble more are the ones who work less.)

***

The ubiquitous complaint regarding assignments and school tasks in a teacher-student conflict is starting to get into my nerves lately. I feel my frustration getting the better of me, slowly but deeply. I still wonder why students still marvel at the amount of homework their teachers give them. When will they accept the fact that it is eternally included in their roles as learners and stop bargaining?

I wasn’t able to contain my impatience any longer when Crystal suppressed a shriek after I gave her a twenty-item assignment on grammar.

“Aaahh! So many homework! Teacher Jean – “ she stopped speaking and started flipping the pages of her huge notebook to show how many words she has to define for her vocabulary class the next day. “And you – “she looked at me deprecatingly and sighed a disappointed sigh.

“So what?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

“It’s so many!” she once again flipped pages to prove her point.

“But you have your dictionary. You use that to get the meaning, right? Just do it. Teachers give homework so you can study and practice what you learned.”

“But I’m tired,” she whined. I tried my best to stop myself from wrapping my hands around her neck.

“Who isn’t?” I smiled instead.

“I read many many!”

“I also read.”

“I slept 11 last night,” she reasoned out.

“I’m still working when you’re already asleep.”

“Sometimes I sleep twelve,” she uttered one more irrelevant argument.

“I sleep at past one o’clock in the morning everyday,” I retorted.

“But I wake up eight o’clock,” she sighed.

“I also wake up at eight. Travel for at least an hour. Work more than half the day and go home exhausted,” I enumerated to emphasize that no student’s hardship is greater than the teacher’s.

She sighed. I didn’t know if that’s to show understanding or she thought I talked nonsense, as if she was the one who’s in the more reasonable end of the argument.

I wanted to ask her what worries her. I wanted to reprimand her for thinking that her life as a foreign student is the hardest she’ll ever have. Did she really think that sleeping late and waking up early is a burden? Doesn’t she know that there are students who patiently walk along mountain trails, cross rivers barefooted and swim the sea for hours to get to school and endure the same sufferings to get home? That these same students read the dog eared, yellow pages of their textbooks which are at least four years old using a kerosene lamp? And she complains about reading her new, imported textbooks; writing her homework using her Dong-A mechanical pencil; defining words with the help of her touch-screen electronic dictionary and sleeping late and waking up early in a comfortable dormitory situated in a sophisticated city?

It’s becoming a common trait among them and it’s depressing. It’s depressing to hear them grouse about how hard it is to study when they don’t sweat much for their tuition fee and take their studies seriously. Do they even understand how much their parents have to work to send them abroad? Forget that they’re studying in a Third World nation. Some people in this country never even had the chance to sit in a crowded, dilapidated classroom in the distant provinces let alone before a private instructor. And these less fortunate ones would give anything to have a taste of the full-of-hardships student life that our lucky students scowl at. I bet they don’t even know what real hardship is.

***

Poverty
by Martial

When your landlord would not hold your goods
In lieu of rent,
I saw you moving –
Your scrawny red-haired wife was loaded down,
Your gentle white-haired mother, loaded down,
And last, yourself as loaded –
Withered with cold and hunger –
Carrying your household treasures:

A three-legged bed,
A two-folded table,
A broken lamp,
A horn cup,
A rusty stove,
A jar which, surely, once held herrings –
Faugh! – it smells like a dry fish-pond,
A square of strong smelling cheese,
A four-year-old crown of herbs,
A rope of onions,
The resin to restore your mother’s hair
In an old cracked jar. . .
Which corner of the bridge open to beggars,
I wonder, will hold you now?