The Party in The Big House
|Photo credit: freepik|
The other day, I went out to buy some essentials and I passed by the building I used to work in. It's funny how a distant memory suddenly came to me, flooding my mind. This happened not so long ago, when I was still working in an English academy.
It all began on November 28, 2018, Wednesday, when the eldest of our students, a 16-year-old pretty and assertive girl, suddenly started going around asking, or to be more accurate, yelling at teachers to “Come my house December 8, Saturday, you eat dinner there, I will tell Ms. Rachel, Ms. Rachel will say yes. Our boarding house, have, has, one, two, three floors, and big, big garden. We play Hide and Seek, okay?! Yes?! You come?!” Ms. Rachel, by the way, is the boarding house owner.
Thinking that this was just an invitation from an energetic girl, I said Yes. No sooner had I said yes than the other youngsters dashed to me saying, or yelling, “Teacher come, teacher come? Teacher come! Already, you said yes-su! (You already said Yes!) Don’t change, don’t change, okay? We play Hide and Seek and Dodge Ball and eat dinner together, okay? We tell boarding house owner you come and other teachers come Saturday.”
And so the other teachers and I suddenly had the sweet trouble of rescheduling appointments, carefully checking which ones can be rescheduled at a later hour and which ones had to be rescheduled to another day. In my case, I had to change the day of my appointment with the dentist. Most importantly, we had to talk to Ms. Rachel and ask her if she knew about the kids’ plans. From the way she frowned and laughed, she did not know about the kids’ plans. In the end, she had no choice but to say yes.
The eldest girl had it all figured out. The late lunch would start at 1 pm and after that, we’d play games. I remembered to buy some cupcakes and chips for the prizes of the winners of whatever games they wanted to play. I arrived at the big boarding house first. As soon as I had rung the buzzer, heads appeared at the window and came the yells, “Elizabeth Teacher! Elizabeth Teacher! ("Teacher Elizabeth! Teacher Elizabeth!")
They all came to meet me at the door. The youngest, a bright-eyed ten-year-old boy, knelt in front of me while I was taking off my shoes. After that, he put my shoes on the rack and gave me a pair of indoor slippers while the older kids were standing around me and were quietly looking on. I have to make it clear that we, Asians, do this to show hospitality to our visitors. (Our students by the way are not Filipinos; they are from our neighbouring Northeast Asian countries. We Filipinos are Southeast Asians.)
If this action is normal among us Asians, then what’s the big deal here?
Well, it’s quite big deal for me because I did not expect them to do that. After all, these are the same kids who would run around the corridors, knocking (banging!) at teachers’ doors during break time, scrutinizing our Filipino food and comparing them with theirs. Honestly, I was sometimes slightly irked with these behaviors of our young people today. I never showed my true feelings but in my mind and heart, I would travel back in time and recall how “times were better in the old days”. Children then did not butt in in adults’ conversations, big children then did not run around, children then did not talk about other people’s food,… and a lot more memories that would nostalgically make me travel back to and long for the distant past, back to my own childhood.
Seeing the kids do a very traditional polite thing without being told by an adult changed my perspective of them. My heart melted that I got almost teary-eyed. The young people in front of me, and ALL OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE in the world, I presume, are polite in their own special way.
We adults sometimes get frustrated when the young people are not behaving in a way that we expect them to. I guess it’s because we are measuring them using the barometer by which we were measured during our own space, during our own time.
Back then, when we ourselves were young people, times were different. The standards we grew up in are quite different now. For one, kids now can express their own opinions. They are assertive. During my time, in my part of the world, this was not acceptable. Kids were just made to obey, and adults would say, “Just obey. I am your senior, I know a lot better.” And so, even when we had our own opinions and preferences, even when we wanted to voice things out, we simply sulked at a corner and reluctantly obeyed whatever was told us to obey.
I realized that each generation has its own unique beauty.
I patted the boy’s shoulder, smiled at the other kids who were looking at me, and I thanked them all wholeheartedly. Unknown to them, they had just taught me an important lesson.