At 8:02AM on Saturday, April 20th, the students at Sichuan University’s Jiang’an Campus were awoken by their dormitories shaking back and forth. The students from the relatively tremor-free provinces outside Sichuan – Shandong, Hainan, Guangxi, Hebei, etc – were “scared to death.” They jumped from their bunks and fled the buildings.
All Saturday and Sunday, aftershocks originating in the Longmenshan faultline shook the province.
I teach English Reading and Writing to about 150 of those students.
The class I’d prepared for the Monday after the earthquake was about personification as a literary device.
After having introduced the students to the personification technique, I asked them to discuss the bits of life that upset them, anger them, stress them out. They talked about exams and homework, of course. But top of their lists was the earthquake.
Imagine the earthquake as a character, I said, as a person with thoughts and feelings, and write a rap around that.
Here’s some of what they wrote:
“It’s not the first time I appeared,
And I just wanna disappear.
All the people are afraid of me,
This is not what I wanna be…”
“I read the newspaper,
And I knew I’d made a disaster,
There were so many people suffering,
I was sad and crying,
Why do I always make people die?
I don’t wanna be a bad guy…”
And as I walked around the class, reading what the students had written, and thinking about the flattened villages, the dead, the injured, the whole thing seemed even more sad, more tragic. Here was an earthquake that never intended to cause damage or pain but could not help it.
In one of the raps, a tale of unrequited love, the earthquake was a woman who had fallen in love with the earth but was rejected, jilted:
Because I didn’t become the earth’s bride.
I felt angry, I shook.
Maybe there was a better choice,
But I just wanted to make some noise.
I know I was wrong,
But the hurt felt so strong…
Sorry to scare your life,
I just wanna be a good wife…”
Raise a glass to the people of Lushan county.