"I don't understand why all these horrible things are happening," said my student, teetering on the verge of tears.
For the past week, she hasn't been able to get the news of the Qinghai earthquake out of her mind. Last night she couldn't sleep. She is just too overcome with all of the calamity surrounding her.
First and foremost in her thoughts is the Qinghai earthquake -- more than 2,039 people are dead, plus 200 more who are missing. She doesn't have a television or computer, so she relies on the radio for news. Almost all of the news these days is bad, she said. Stories of children left without
parents fill her thoughts. Tibetans, who speak little or no
"hanyu" (Mandarin) who have to travel with injured loved ones
to get medical treatment far away.
"I can't get them out of my mind."
Naturally, her mind drifts to the night she and her classmates had to spend sleeping on the square almost two years ago, when the Sichuan earthquake killed 90,000 Chinese people.
She trembles in fear.
Then, her mind is filled with numerous disasters. Drought in Southern China. A disease (hand-foot-and-mouth disease) that is spreading among young children, with more than 77,700 cases in March and 40 deaths.
"I don't know why all these bad things are happening in China."
It seems like a prevalent thought. In fact, several students in the last week have asked if I have seen the movie "two zero one two" -- referring to the end-of-the world epic "2012." They ask: "Do you think that the end of the world is coming?"
Today, my student explained that China held a day of mourning, because it is important to mourn someone's death after seven days in Chinese culture. Flags were lowered to half-staff. Students gathered in the sports stadium and observed 3 minutes of silence. A government-enforced 24-hour moratorium on entertainment was put into place as well. "Everything on television and the radio is only about the earthquake today," she explained.
Indeed, after coming home, I attempted to download a song on my favorite website in the world: google.cn/music (and it's cousin top100.cn -- both of which surprisingly still allow free legal downloads to 90% of major label music, even after Google pulled out of China), but was greeted by a link to donate to a Qinghai earthquake charity. Had anybody told me about this entertainment ban, I might not have shown my culture students the Irish Revolutionary war film "Michael Collins" during class this afternoon.
In spite of all of this devastation, my student said that she is also encouraged by the volunteerism.
"I don't know about your country, but it I am sad to admit that most Chinese people are selfish," she said. "They only care about themselves...So it makes me glad that our government and so many people are doing things to help. That makes my heart warm."