Asking to Understand

July 5, 2017


The sheer amount of Chinese

got to me

So I sought to escape

the sea of people


Steps to the left of the primary school's courtyard 

caught my eye and I finally found

a few seconds of silence 


That was until a young boy 

approached me,

unsure of his English

 he asked

"Do you need help?"


My limited interactions in China 

led me to believe that this question 

often asked served as 

a kick starter for the 

'English corner'

an aid in sharpening one's 

second language skills


And although I was in no need of assistance

this boy brought knowledge

that I needed to understand 

the local culture in Chengdu 


When I answered 'no' 

we sat in silence, 

both patiently staring

into the schoolyard 

Then our curiosity kicked in and questions 

slowly walked out both our mouths


As a species, I'm hopeful

that we still seek to understand 

what we don't know


I asked if he'd been to Beijing

or Shanghai


His family was poor

and had never left Chengdu

His father works for the government

and in this Communist country

each person is a pawn as the government 

continues to gain ground globally


"What do kids in America 

do for summer?"

I had to think about that....


Play sports

video games

travel if they're lucky

"No study?"

not really I replied


His face lit up in astonishment 

as though he couldn't believe what he'd heard

Kids in this country study six days a week

morning and evening classes

in each classroom around campus 

it reads "struggle for a better tomorrow"


Hard work in this competitive culture 

is ingrained early on as to not get passed by


It's quiet again as we both soak in 

the two staples to a successful society

government and education

Just as our shirts soak in the sweat 

from the sticky Chengdu afternoon


We ask questions to learn more 

about what we don't know

and because of that I'm happy

he asked me If 

I needed help




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