In an academic environment such as university it is almost surreal sitting here and being asked to construct a believable lie about myself. So Ravi, what lie can I tell you about myself?
As you know I’ve had the good fortune of moving around a lot as a child and have lived in a few different countries. What you may not know about me is that for a few months my family and I lived in Shanghai, during this time we were moving around a LOT, and to make sure that I did not fall behind in school my mom homeschooled me. She pushing my along at my pace rather than that of the ‘normal’ school curriculum, which resulted in a few delays in me getting into the correct class at an international school. We were in Shanghai for almost two months when I was finally enrolled in a school and the timing of my enrolment meant that I was in school for a grand total of one day before the holidays started. After that we ended up moving back to the UK, so despite living in China for three (ish) months, I can say that I went to school for a grand total of one day.
Now even though I was only there for such a short period of time, it was all still strange and eventful enough for me to remember it all vividly, well kind of. In the morning I was kept in this little side room by myself, with a few different teacher coming in and out as they made me do a bunch of tests to evaluate what section I needed to be placed in. After that I was sent to the lower school, to have a Mandarin class with the kindergarten students – to this day I’m almost certain that at least a quarter of them actually were smarter than me.
Once Mandarin class was over I was sent back to the middle school so that I could have lunch with students my age. It was interesting though because the school did not have a main cafeteria, instead this trolly was brought up to each classroom with the rice and all the other side dished, and this big pot of soup. Everyone would line up, grab a tray of food and a bowl, get the bowl filled with soup, and then sit at their desks and eat. A few of the more social students would push their desks together so they could eat and talk.
Very confused by this all, and more than a little disgusted by the strange food, I sat in the corner by myself – pushing questionably smelling meat around on my tray – until I decided that the best course of action would be to hide in the bathroom until lunch was over. Excusing myself from the classroom, I went to the bathroom and was even more horrified when rather than individual stalls it was rather a trough with a few dividing walls that greeted me. A sight similar to the one below.
I suppose than normal behaviour for a bewildered child would be to walk in, see something strange and walk back out. For some reason though I decided to sue the bathroom even though I really did not need to. Perhaps it was because there were other girls in there and I did not want to seem strange walking in and just walking out. Perhaps it was because I felt adventurous and as though this was an element of the culture that I need to experience. I’m not really sure why, but on that faithful day I decided to use the trough bathroom.
Now not to get into any unpleasant specifics, but that is also they day I learnt that it is truly a skill to be able to squat and pee into a trough whilst wearing uniform trousers… needless to say, things got more than a little messy, I got to go home early, and that was thankfully my first and last day at that school in Shanghai.