Sun 9 Oct 2005
You’d think I’d have resigned myself by now. After all, my daughter has already made it through two years in the Chinese school system, albeit in an international school, and is now in the third grade. However, each time it happens, I find the same sense of outrage rising unbidden and the complaints spew forth. I’m refering to the unique Chinese custom of tagging extra days off on to a long holiday and then making up for it by adding a couple of extra ones to the next week. The result of which, and the source of my unrelenting ire, is school on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the regular school week for a 7 day non-stop run, which usually, in my case at least, manages to undo any relaxation I might have gained from the extra two days they borrowed in the first place.
This isn’t just for school. Many people adhere to this same schedule for work. You see, there are only so many days off to go around and everything must be planned out to the nth degree so why not require mandatory holiday schedules as well?
Now, I’m generally a pretty flexible guy. I’ve spent the greater portion of my adult life living abroad and I’m quick to criticize those who constantly complain about the fact that their current host country is not like the homeland they left. So, ever the introspective one, I decided to take a look at why this rankles me so. Many Chinese people take this stoically, so why not me?
Why is it that working on a weekend, or seemingly worse, going to school on a weekend is so repugnant to me? Could it be that being born and raised in the US, which was primarily founded on conservative Judeo-Christian values has left me with a sense that I have a “right” to my “Sabbath?” Never mind that I don’t follow any Sabbath day rituals currently. I rememberwhen I was growing up in the 60s and 70s that nothing was open on Sunday. Maybe some restaurants, and a few rebel gas stations, but few others. Then, little by little, people started breaking away from the tradition until now nearly everything is open on Sunday. You can still see the legacy reflected in different hours and, if they are lucky, special pay for those working.
Well, there’s certainly no Sabbath here. Plenty of people work on Sunday as though it were just any day but most Chinese people I talk to agree that weekends are theirs. Some even went so far as to say they don’t really like the current arrangement, but what could they do?
I could follow the advice of a coffee shop acquaintance of mine, journalist Paul Mooney, and just let my kids stay home those days. Unfortunately, that won’t wash too well with my mother-in-law who watches over the kids education like a hawk.
So, I guess I’ll just suck it up. Until, the next time it happens, that is!
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