05 February 2013

Getting angry

The Bible is such a foil :
In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah
I rushed out of work yesterday to get to the bank in Kajang, as I finally had some money to deposit and a letter that would theoretically get me a bank account. It was raining, as it does, and I had to navigate my way through the stopped taxis and cars with an umbrella. All the eyes were, of course, watching: not transparent Emersonian ones, but eyes embedded in a crowd so diverse that I wonder why I can't be normal here too. Fat white man is interesting enough–fat white man and umbrella weaving through traffic is worth stopping for.
Today, some schoolchildren shouted out Hello! to me, laughing and pointing to their friends, as I walked past. This always happened in Japan and the quality of my day always dictated my response. Today, I didn't know what to do: a small wave and I kept walking. On a better day, maybe I would stop and shake hands. Joke around a bit. The security men at the gated development at the top of the hill near our house were playing cricket with a broom and a PET bottle top last Wednesday. They waved and smiled at me, and I laughed, threw off my bag and demanded they let me take a swing. Shocked, delighted: they laughed, Cricket?!
Baseball: you know baseball? I said, grabbing the broom.  More shock, more delight: Okay, okay! I took two big swings at the bottle top, embarrassing myself. Okay, okay! 
When I got to the bank and gave the woman at the kiosk my passport and letter, I was told to wait while she showed everything to a man at a desk. He flipped through my passport, stopping at my visa page, and then waved me over smiling. Very sorry, sir, you need to go: Semenyih bank. Very sorry. I was confused, But why? It's the same bank. No sir, very different, very sorry, you teach: University of Nottingham? Yes. You need to go: Semenyih branch. Very close. Very sorry. But why? I said, and the record was put on repeat. Need to go to: Semenyih branch. Very sorry. 250 Ringgit, they give you Visa card. Very sorry. Maybe I asked one more time, but it didn't matter: very sorry.

I left frustrated and angry, probably visibly so. Fat white man doesn't speak language, demands something, doesn't get what he wants, leaves in huff. I can play my role well.

Determined to not make the afternoon a waste, I trudged on to the motorbike shop, umbrella and medicine bag in hand. After some marginal research the night before and talking to some people, I decided that I could probably ride a motorbike on the license I have. Fat white man is free to do some things without question. On a motorbike, I would avoid the inconsistent bus and have something to look forward to in my day: riding my mini cub in Japan is a warm memory of being even younger. I went to the bike shop and just picked one out, like that. How much is this one? Does it start? Great, I'll take it. I don't even really remember what colour it is. I didn't haggle, I just bought it and they said it would be ready on Wednesday morning. Five hundred Ringgit deposit, thirty for the helmet: I gave it up happily like I was the one ripping them off. You just gave me freedom and happiness for ten hours worth of essay marking: what a racket! 

I got home with my helmet, triumphant: kissed the girls, checked my e-mail and looked at the receipt for the kids' kindergarten that Yoko had brought home. Another thousand Ringgit, some of which was supposed to be reimbursed by my university, but given all the difficulty I've had with HR, I needed the receipt written a particular way: a way that I had explained very carefully to the head teacher when Yoko and I went a couple weeks earlier. Of course, it was wrong and I got angry, all the triumphant unravelled immediately by frustration: the bank, the lists of things to do, the sweaty khaki trousers, the rain, the carbs everywhere around me...everything aimed directly at my wife.
Do not sin.
You can't get angry in this country: you get angry and you bury yourself immediately. You win the battles by happily chatting and shaking hands. You negotiate with smiles, get your way through kindness and building relationships. You will rip me off this time, but the next time you will realise I am here to stay and you'll be kinder. It's worked surprisingly well so far. The bike shop: I did haggle for the helmet, but otherwise--all smiles and thank yous and gratitude. When the bike breaks and I show up again, they will be kinder to me. The anger, though, doesn't dissipate. It gets masked and stuffed down and comes out when you're with someone who you know loves you and has to forgive you. How awful and petty is that.

Forgiveness and patience can run out even with those who love you: don't test the boundaries. This is my mantra that I can't seem to repeat enough to remember. Another day, another opportunity to do good and not evil. So many things to be angry about, but so little to gain from sinning. My family is all I have: best be more careful whom I sin against.