Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Shrewdness (03/07/05)
- TITLE: Mutual Manipulation
By Suzanne R
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Lana calls herself a doctor, although rumour has it that she was merely a health worker who has climbed the professional ladder by knowing … and marrying … the right people. She’d had aspirations of working under an Australian specialist in her field. I met Lana through a friend from church. Yvonne is a good Chinese friend, and somehow feels that friendship with a foreigner gives her prestige among her professional peers. I, in turn, want to develop friendships with the local intelligentsia. I love China and am eager to learn how to ‘be’ Chinese. Yvonne has taken me under her wing, helping me learn Chinese social protocol. I’m forever grateful, although there is just one element that really grates. Through a complicated chain of obligations, Lana and I became ‘friends’. Actually, our relationship is more one of mutual manipulation. In that wonderfully rich culture, Lana personifies ‘using your network’. This one trait really bothers me, although we westerners do the same thing, albeit more surreptitiously. Lana makes me mad only because I seem to constantly get the rough end of the deal!
Lana asked me to teach her English, but as I’m not permitted to take private students, I used every excuse in the book to say “No”. Instead, Lana simply visited once a week for help. One win for Lana. I ended up not only teaching her English, but even had to organize to visit friends each week after she should have finished. She just wouldn’t budge, so sometimes I would have to go first, leaving her to pull the door shut. Lana was a good student, being highly motivated, but simply would not accept that I didn’t have all night to work with her.
The time came for Lana to apply for her visa to go to Australia. At this point, she requested the ultimate use of ‘connections’. Since God and I were on good terms, please could I tell Him that Lana needed a visa, and in return, she would commit her life to Him once she reached Australia! I warned her that bargaining with God was no small thing, but did agree to pass the message along. Another win for Lana.
Lana phoned several weeks later, her words spilling out with great emotion. The embassy had turned down her application. Since I was Australian, please could I talk to the embassy? “My homeland doesn’t work that way”, I protested. “Even if it did, I am nobody special and it wouldn’t make any difference.” Lana persisted. In order to placate her, I wrote a fax and sent it off. Within ten minutes, an embassy staff member was on the phone, explaining how she could present her case successfully. Three wins for Lana. Finally, visa in hand, she was ready to board the flight to Melbourne.
The visa wasn’t the only thing in Lana’s hand. At my request, she carried a letter to a contact in the Chinese Christian community in Melbourne. As soon as she had a semi-permanent address, she was to add the relevant details, and put it in the mail. The letter asked for a warm welcome to the church and for someone to lead her to Christ and disciple her. It even had a stamp affixed. One win for me?
It has been six months now. Lana has had a wonderful experience. Her recently retired husband and six-year-old daughter have joined her for a holiday before returning to China together. I heard all this from Yvonne, with a whisper that it might be a very long holiday. Tonight, Lana phoned to say, ‘Thank you and goodbye’. I knew exactly what she meant. Like several of my friends, that family wanted to emigrate. If they can’t do it legally, they’ll find another way. Yet another win for Lana.
Lana has done well in getting to where she wants to be in life. She slipped up on just one point. Lana ‘bargained’ with God. I pray that God, in His mercy, may yet lead Lana to keep her end of the deal.
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