Wednesday, November 04, 2015


"Do you want it or not? If you don't, well that's fine. If you do, I'll need a little something. Give me 5000 yuan and I'll send it over. How does that sound?"
I lent against the desk of the police station, contemplating this text message and if and how to reply. He'd already called me once before sending me a text - he was heavy accented and had his script tight and mechanical. I suggested he message me to buy me some time.  
"I received this," I said giving my phone to the uniformed person behind the desk to show the text. 
She laughed, "He's trying to trick you! Ignore him." My phone, almost out of batteries, displayed another in-coming call from the same man. I ignored it.
"You're a bad man," I texted back, "You've taken my money. Even if I wanted to pay I can't. You took my charger, too, I'm almost out of power."
"Do you want it or not," he texted. "If you say nothing, I'll assume you don't." I left him to assume.

Later on, I was giving my statement to another officer: "And I received a call from the guy who stole it." 
His eyes lit up, "You should meet with him. Bring a friend and call the police."
"In my country that's what we expect the police to do. Besides, he only wants me to put money in his bank account."
"Oh, then just ignore him."
"Do you want me to get his bank account number because I can ask for it."
"No, he'd have used fake documentation to open it." He wasn't interested in following it up and finished my statement. My phone ran out of power with the need to help him find the address of the restaurant where it was stolen.

Objectively, it wasn't a great day. I had put my bag on a seemingly safe restaurant chair for lunch with my colleague sitting opposite me and had still managed to get my bag stolen: my passport, travel document (with my phone number and address), keys, wallet, bank card, a copy of Fight Club and a memory stick all taken. Later from a neighboring hotel's office I got to see CCTV footage of the thief leaving the restaurant (also not required by the police) to confirm that it had been taken. Before that it'd been one or more of theft, David Lynch, insanity or magic.

 But I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't angry or upset. I had a little bit of anxiety when communicating with my tormentor. It's probably the kind of equanimity that I had had before for a time. Perhaps my impending end to work had relaxed some of the nerves that tighten through work. The previous day I'd given out a written warning and two strong action plans without sweating either.

And then another leaving colleague lent me the book Antifragile today by one of my favourite writers, Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I haven't read it but the name made sense when I sat down to write this. His definition of this word is something that isn't just resilient in the face of the unexpected but actually gets stronger. That in a world where security and stability is valued we make things increasingly vulnerable to the unanticipated changes and developments. But the world has endured despite sudden and spectacular changes. We should embrace a little chaos. I'm sure Tyler Durden would agree with that. Or at least be indifferent to it, as Laozi might prefer. And the police might like the latter rather than the former.

It was a tiring weekend. The theft, the police, work, a late night game of football to watch, four hours' sleep, an early morning meeting work, a farewell dinner with teachers and great whiskey, then a farewell party with students and staff with more whiskey and not much sleep and then a trip to the Public Security Bureau and consulate for my passport issues before more work again. Tuesday was the promised land. It was smooth. 

I'm not sure which page of the I Ching (Yijing in Pinyin, the Book of Changes, by some translations). I shook some coins and came up as Force/Persisting, total Yang. I wouldn't have made head nor tail of it but it was in a book I'd received among my farewell gifts. I hadn't given a toss about the I Ching because I could just write it off as silly divination. But just a few pages in and I'm keen to get more of an understanding. Coins are all I have now, anyway.

And then there was Francis. We have no lack of weird students, to be clear, and Francis seems weirdly, obsessively lucid. The kind of person if I weren't a teacher, if I weren't so up to my neck in leaving and tying up lose ends, I might indulge. I've only met him twice:
First time: Two months ago I went down to the Lounge Area of my centre and helped release a teacher for a newspaper interview. I was there for 20 minutes to entertain them while he was gone. I left and did a few other things and then when leaving he pulled me over to his computer. "You're lawful good," he said. (Actually, it took me a while to realise it was these two words because of his pronunciation and even when I knew it was that, I still didn't know what it meant. He drew me a diagram and got images from the internet. "Lawful Good are rare, just 4% of people," he said. He couldn't explain how he could observe I was a Lawful Good. I left with an interesting, abstract way of looking a personalities, and left.
Second time: At my farewell party I was taking photos with students from the past as he walked past the glass window next to us. He looked vaguely familiar and even looked at me putting his hand against the glass with a grin on he face. He came in, thrust a bag of durian and egg mooncakes into my hands and then left for the bar. After another thirty minutes, I sat down where he was to thank him and he jogged my memory who he was and where we'd met. He then wanted to talk about enneagrams, another thing I didn't know about and suddenly went to his bag to get a scrap of paper and started scribbling furiously, covering both sides linking vital organs, personality types, sexuality and handedness. "You're a reformer," he said, "Homo, left-handed reformers are geniuses. I only know one other reformer, Fernando Redondo." I didn't know Fernando and I mentioned I wasn't left-handed either, without wanting to touch on the topic of my sexuality. I thanked him for his interpretation and he stayed doing his own thing until he left. 

Tuesday is drawing to an end. I have sleep to have. Books to read when I rise. Life is good.

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