I went to Kindergarten in China. Which is unfortunate, because the teachers were garbage. Wait, I should clarify. I don't mean that ALL the teachers were garbage, I'm sure some of them were very nice. However, the ones that I had certainly were garbage.
China and Japan were long-time rivals. As for who started what, I don't know. I am not a history nerd, nor do I want to be. I just know that in the early 90s, my kindergarten teachers hated Japan with a passion. I don't hate Japan, I made a lot of friends there, so it makes me sad to say hateful things about it, even in quotations. So instead of saying Japan, I'm gonna say “Computerland”.
My kindergarten teacher was a mean woman named Sun. Sun was 5'2”, possibly 45 years of age, and wore a hospital gown in the shade of cement. All our kindergarten teachers wore hospital gowns in shades of cement. The reason was never explained. I think they were a symbol of power. A signal. A permission to cause psychological damage in small children. Sun was a small woman, but to us, she might as well have been a giant tower of doom shooting fire out of her nostrils. Kids being screamed at, punished, and humiliated in front of the whole class were daily occurrences at my kindergarten. One of my classmates was dragged by his collar and used as a mopping tool. Sun was literally Trenchbull from Matilda, only with bigger eyebrows and sharper elbows. If she were in Canada, she would be put in jail, period. But this was China in 1991, all the kindergartens were like this. Aside from terrorizing us, Sun also delighted in telling gruesome stories of torture, caused by people from Computerland.
“They were horrible! They tore up villages. They killed people with their machetes! And they were running around town, laughing maniacally, covered in blood!” Her eyes would flicker when she got to this part, something about it made me think she wasn't far from doing that herself. “They were monsters,” She would continue. “with big, ugly, yellow teeth. That's right. All their teeth were yellow. And their faces were yellow. And they had yellow teeth on their yellow faces!”
“Wait, did you say, 'yellow teeth on their yellow faces?'”
“That's right! Horrible yellow teeth, sprouted out onto their yellow faces! Everyone from Computerland!”
I had never seen anyone with teeth on their face. But I've also never seen anyone from Computerland. So I asked my mom if it were possible for teeth to be sprouted out onto a face. My mom said: “No. That is not possible.”
I had promptly forgotten about the yellow-toothed Computerlandians and went about my day, but only to be reminded of it again, in another bout of storytelling by Sun. Based on her age, Sun had never been to war, but she talked about it with so much confidence, it was as if she died in it and came back as a ghost. A super repetitive ghost. She told her war stories almost as often as she frowned at the sight of children.
Fast forward two years, I went to elementary school. Another teacher, named Zhang, popped off talking about the evils of Computerland. She focused more on the victims. “That poor, innocent Lei Feng!” Lei Feng was a 20-something-year-old do-gooder and model citizen. He had a smile that made him resemble a golden retriever in my textbook illustrations.“He was such a good person, he only thought of others and never himself. Did you know? The enemies struck him in the chest during a battle, and he died instantly of blood loss. He was only twenty-one! He didn't even get to be married!” Monsters! How unjust of them to kill a super nice 21-year-old who looked like a golden retriever! Zhang was successfully fanning rage. I would later find that, Lei Feng actually died from being hit in the head by a telephone pole, which had nothing to do with battle*. But Zhang was my homeroom teacher, and I was a gullible 7-year-old. And after years of hearing terrible stories of the Computerlandians and thinking that they were monsters with face teeth, I was totally onboard with blaming them. Zhang also told us that she refuses to use shampoo imported from Computerland. So I went home, and told my family that I will no longer use anything imported from Computerland ever again.
“The taxi-car is made in Computerland, you know.” My uncle said.
“Well then.... I won't ride in it!”
“'Kay. What about your favourite book? That's written by a guy from Computerland, too.”
“I'm not reading that book anymore!”
“Are you gonna stop playing your favourite video game as well? The one with Mario and the mushrooms, that's also made in Computerland?”
It dawned on me. If I were to hate Computerland, I was suddenly having to stop doing a lot of things. I did not want that. It was too much to ask a 7-ear-old to hate something with that much consistency. Not even an hour later, I'd forgotten all about my boycott campaign, and went right back to reading my favourite comic book about a blue cat with no ears, ignoring that it was written by a guy from gasp! - Computerland.
“You know, people from Computerland might have killed people from China, but that was a war, and it was a long time ago. Neither they, or the people they killed are alive anymore. And just because their government and the military did something, doesn't mean that everyone in that country believed it to be a good thing to do.” It was either my mom or my dad that said this to me. It's a shame that I don't remember, because this was a very important thing to hear. Mostly, because it was not insane.
Years later, I went to high-school in Canada. And for the first time, I actually met a girl from Computerland. She did not have any yellow teeth on her face. I hang out with her at lunch. We shared an affinity for logo sweatshirts, the British boy-band Five, and Tim Horton's ice-cappuccinos. She did not kill anyone, as far as I knew.
I will never know why my teachers hated Computerland so much. I will forever remember that, one of them told me teeth sprouted out onto faces, and another one made up a lie about a guy's death so she could justify boycotting products. I think these two things might be related. I still secretly wish Sun gets bulldozed by a herd of bison for all the unprocessed trauma I probably still carry from being in her class. I'm so glad that I'm not there anymore.
*I just found out today that even the very existence of Lei Feng is up for debate. The Chinese government had found his personal diary, and it contained 200,000 words of praise for Mao. Which, is amazing...