Shengliver’s Note: In this entry the readers will read about one of my ex pupils, who is now a uni student in Kunming. In the winter holidays I met him at a reunion party of his former mates and teachers. All the memories came flooding back. This entry is a revised one, written and posted for the first time when he was a Year 11 student.


Mr Zhang Jilong was in the sole rocket class in the first term of high school because he had performed distinctively well in the high school entrance exams. Unluckily he degenerated in the first term. According to some sources, he wasted his time on the mobile phone at night and every weekend was spent in a digital café around the clock. At the beginning of the second term, he was stripped of his rocket membership and placed in one of my classes, which is not a rocket but a bullet, as it is officially termed.




Initially Jilong was not good enough. He failed to turn in his journal many times. His classmates confided that he still spent loads of time and money on computer games. He even purchased a digital card, which enabled him to play games at a cybercafé without paying in cash on each visit.


In the first term of Grade 2, changes all of a sudden came about. He trashed his game card, handed in his journal, and did his schoolwork even in the dorm in the evening. I was wondering about it when a journal keeper told me that Mr Zhang was different all because of a girl classmate. He adored the girl so much that he felt ashamed of his past behaviour. To win the girl’s heart or to impress her, he made up his mind to be a good boy. To remind himself of his ambition, he even wrote the girl’s name on a slip of paper and put it up on the wall at the bedside.


Before morning and afternoon lessons begin, all the classes have to do a song in chorus. The purpose is to wake the sleepers up and to start the day in a merry mood. Miss Wen was originally in charge of the activity, and she chose songs that most teens hated. As a result, their singing did not impress the school supervisors very much. One day the class director himself picked a revolutionary song on the digital whiteboard for the class to sing along to. It so infuriated Mr Zhang that he went up to the front and switched off the board, snapping at the director in his face, “Your song is rubbish! We should choose what we like.” The director was dumbfounded. He blinked rapidly. The colour of his face changed several times before he ordered Mr Zhang to take over the job from Miss Wen. Since then Mr Zhang has been in control of the singing and doing the job very well indeed. He wakes up the sleepy heads and leads the chorus. He sings bloody loud like a ghetto-blaster. He turns on and off the white board punctually, like a clock.




The Chinese language instructor Mr King is harsh. A lot of teens dread him. First thing in each Chinese period he checks if the students have done all the work he assigned.


The other day, Mr King was doing the checking. Most teens had done their work. When he came to Mr Zhang, he found the teen had done almost nothing on the paper except for some ridiculous scribbles. Mr King demanded an explanation from Mr Zhang. Zhang said that doing Chinese work was of no use because it was irrelevant to his marks in the exam. Mr King got bloody angry and commanded him to ‘roll’ out of the classroom.


Mr Zhang stood up and started for the exit. But he slammed the poor door as he was going out. It was thunderous, man. Bang! Mr King the Chinese master stormed out of the room and bawled at the teen in the corridor. He was as loud as if the entire building were shaking.


Since then, Mr Zhang has taken no Chinese lessons in the classroom. It is his own choice. When it is time for a Chinese lesson, he either stands outside or moves his desk out of the room. He says he is to learn Chinese on his own. Mr King the instructor still does not forgive him for his misdemeanour.


Cousin Ma


Mr Zhang had a cousin whose family name is Ma. Ma’s father is Zhang’s mother’s brother. Cousin Ma is dead. Zhang shared with me the story about the cousin in his journal.


Cousin Ma was one of the high achievers in his middle school. He scored extraordinarily well in each exam. Teachers petted him; classmates worshipped him. Misfortune struck him in the second year, however. A mental disorder befell him. He lost most of his memory because of the condition. His father plucked him out of school and put him on medication.


Closeted away in his room, Cousin Ma was not allowed to come out of the house while he was under treatment at home. A miracle happened after some time. He was completely rehabilitated. The father was so ecstatic that he played host to a string of banquets, to which all their kith and kin were invited.


Cousin Ma resumed his education afterwards. His mind was so sharp that pretty soon he regained his No. 1 place in the league tables. Then he entered high school. The performance was as stunning as before. All his teachers prophesied that Cousin Ma would make it to one of China’s renowned unis after he graduated from high school.


In the last school year during the winter before the Spring Festival, Cousin Ma disappeared. He failed to come back home after school one evening. The parents combed the whole community but no trace of him was detected. Then word came that his corpse was spotted three kilometres downstream in the river Hanjiang. It turned out that Cousin Ma had jumped off a bridge over the river and drowned himself.


What was the cause? No one then knew. It might have been that his disease crept back. It might have been that he was depressed. It might have been that he was fed up with his lifestyle. No one knew exactly.


Mr Zhang Jilong is candid and has his own mind. The qualities I have found in him are lacking in many other teens. A lot of them are too obedient too unassertive. My impression is that they are either chickens or yes-men and yes-women. Of course Mr Zhang is far from perfect. I hope he keeps improving himself and shines.


An Update


While the entry was being prepared, Mr Zhang gave me an update on the cause of Cousin Ma’s death. He was not 100% sure of it, but he suspected that it was the cousin’s lack of love towards the father that led to his suicide. Zhang said that whenever he visited the cousin and the uncle, he felt ill at ease. The familial ambience was abnormal. As far as Zhang can remember, never once did Cousin Ma call the father Dad. The day before his vanishing, he asked his father if the adult loved him. Startled by the question, the father had no clue why the son had raised it. The next day witnessed his departure.


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