A Colorado teacher reflects on her time in China in verse
I see why babies cry on the day they’re born,
So many unknowns, and never forewarned
Leaving the safety of a cozy quiet womb,
Out in the world with its bangs and booms
I felt the same way walking off the plane
First in Shanghai, then to Yichang by train
Suddenly I knew nothing, not a word or a soul
Or the even the name of the food in my bowl
New to this country and to its ways
Like a baby living her first few days
I’ve heard babies use cuteness as a survival technique
“I’m giggling and smiling, will you feed me this week?”
I think of this at market, pomelo fruit in hand
“Ting bu dong,” I say, “I don’t understand.”
And just for good measure I flash a big smile
Please like me, please like me, I’m here for a while!
Have you ever seen a baby try to eat a block?
Or a puppy tail or a towel or even a rock?
You don’t know till you try what’s good to eat
Though I’m staying far away from that place with dog meat
Chubby cheeks covered in oatmeal and mashed peas
I’ll starve with these chopsticks. Fork? Please?
Whether in diapers or split pants, babies learn to 1 and 2
So… how do I use that hole in my loo?
Goo goo gah gah
Ni hao ma ma
Try a sound and see
Does anyone understand me?
But even through the hunger, the tears, the unknown,
When you don’t know what to do and just want to go home,
Something amazing is happening, I’m sure you’ve seen it before
That look in her eyes as she pulls herself across the floor
A sense of pride, of independence she never has known
For the first time she is crawling, all on her own!
It’s the same here, a victory in every small feat,
In small sentences exchanged with the people I meet,
In staring out across the Yangtze River so wide,
And feeling all at once a deep sense of pride
A sense of safety in the great unknown,
Inhale, exhale, you’re never alone.