This is the nutshell version of how my parents met:
My father was in college, and his good friend – let’s call him Joe – was a financially-challenged kid who was failing a major class. Times were tough, and Joe’s parents couldn’t afford to pay for the same class twice. So Joe’s mom
bribed my dad with blowjobs begged my dad to keep an eye on her son’s grades and help him pass his classes.
When my dad learned that Joe was failing math class, he talked to the teacher and made a deal: He and Joe would paint the teacher’s house in exchange for a passing grade.
The house that my dad painted just happened to belong to my mom’s grandmother, and my mom, the dutiful and loving Catholic that she was, would visit her grandmother every Sunday on her way to church. My dad got one look at my mom’s tiny frame and fat ass, and decided to wear his “good clothes” every Sunday, when he went to paint the house.
The lesson of this story?
Make sure your sisters know how to get paint out of Levi’s. Grades can be bought.
It happened again in my Nursing 100 class: A classmate sat next to me and tried to cheat off my paper. In another time, when I was a different person, I might have let him cheat. This time around, though,
I have some integrity I refuse to squeeze studying into my hectic-as-all-hell working-mom/full-time-student schedule and allow someone else to glide to my GPA just by sitting next to me.
Look who’s a Goody Two-Shoes?
“But, Mistress Mom!” you might say, “That’s a two-way street! You can totally cheat, too, and in the process get higher grades and more time to spend with your family!”
To which I’d shrug and say, “I guess I do have integrity. Well lookie there.”
“But, Mistress Mom!” you might say, “Everyone else does it! Why the hell do you want to bend over backwards to get high grades in a system where even the valedictorian cheats?”
Ah, yes. That’s a valid point. Here’s the thing: I’m not bending over backwards. Not anymore, anyway. I’ve learned my lesson: In this culture, everyone cheats, and it does pay to do so.
I realize that I could turn in my classmates- actually, no, I can’t. Code of the streets and all that. I might be living in the Philippines, but I’m still a New Yorker.
Maybe I’m not a Goody Two-Shoes after all.
I wonder about cheating, and about the Filipino educational system, and the Filipino (Asian?) teaching style. I wonder if the Philippines is the only Asian country where cheating runs like a gate of Kentucky Derby fillies set free on a wide, open plain – all rampant-like. I wonder what makes cheating possible and such a widely-spread phenomenon.
And every time I think about it, I keep on remembering the story of how my parents met, and how Joe’s parents didn’t have the financial means to pay for the retaking of classes. I can’t help but wonder if this applies to the students at my school, and if it does apply to them, does that even matter? Is financial dire straits good enough reason to let cheating slide?
When I was 14 and my baby fat fluctuated to my boobs and ass, a friend’s uncle assumed that I was “Chinese and Dominican.” When I corrected him, he nodded his head, irritated. “Filipino. That’s half Chinese and half Dominican, just like I said.”
Even before I moved overseas, when asked where I’m from, I’d instantly answer “New York.” I knew what people meant by the question, but the Philippines has always been this vague land of mysterious people who practice witchcraft while praying to Jesus. It’s the setting for all of my dad’s strange stories about amulets and ghosts and conservative politics. It’s just. so. different. From everything that I’ve ever known.
All my life, I’ve been grappling with this piece of my identity. Now that I’m living here, and raising my son here, and going to school here, and being immersed in the culture, I have no excuses. Now’s the time to figure out what this culture is about, and how it affects me, and how I fit into it (or don’t).
And this? This question of cheating, and how it plays into the Filipino mindset, and culture, and educational system? It’s just a tiny piece of what I’m coming up with. Because, yeah, everything that I experience here makes for good fiction fodder and interesting Skype stories, but more than that, seeing this side of my heritage makes me realize just how tainted I am by American propaganda and New York/liberal thinking.
Maybe tainted isn’t the right word, but I’ve used affected already and I’m too lazy to go to thesaurus.com.
I hold the experiences I’ve garnered in the Philippines up to the standards I’ve created in the States, and even though that may be problematic, it’s also the only viewpoint that I have.
Where does this leave me? What can I do about this dilemma?
I’m not sure yet, but I figured these questions are valid reasons to cut my blogging hiatus a little short.