Posted by: beaufortninja | February 6, 2012

Awkward Conversation About Divorce, Gay Marriage and AIDS

Same adult student from previous conversation here:

I always expect strange things from this guy. Out of principle I can’t tell you his name, but it should be a rule of thumb for people to be suspicious of a man who names himself after a legendary sunken city (take a guess) and it should be remembered that despite China’s rapid economic development, old conservative views still prevail among the majority of the population. Here we go.

We sit in the English Corner alone. It’s a large room with a projector and white screen for presentations and films. He sits across the table and smiles pleasantly. I start the conversation off with the topic of the day. “Tell me about marriage.”
“Ok. Well, that’s when a man and woman decide to live together and then they have children.”
“Sometimes it’s not just a man and woman.” I always throw in something unexpected to get them really thinking.
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes it’s a man and man or a woman and a woman.”
His face twists up. “Uhhh! No! Maybe in America but not in China.”
I raised an eyebrow at the expected reply. “Oh? You sure?”
I walked over to the computer and pulled up some images of gay marriages in Shanghai on the projector. This one specifically. Hot, right?

The color drained from his face.
“So what were you just saying about gay marriage not being in China?”
“I think this is Photoshop.” His expression was 100% serious.
“Sure it is,” I said skeptically. “What happens when the people don’t want to be married anymore?”
“They get a divorce.”
“And what do you think about divorce?”
“I don’t agree with it.” He shook his head and crossed his arms. “What if the husband is an alcoholic and beats up his wife everyday.”
“I don’t think she should be able to leave him,” he said with a straight face.
That statement, even from this student who has proven himself to be behind the times in terms social views several times before, took me off guard. “Hold on. Let me make sure you understand the question. A man. Drinks everyday. Comes home drunk and hurts his wife. Should she be able to divorce him?” “No, I don’t think so,” he replied.
“Because the woman shouldn’t be allowed to leave the man.”
“Because that’s traditional Chinese culture.”
“I have a topic I want to talk about.” He sat up in his seat and suddenly looked very interested. “Yeah, I think we should move on…”
“I want to talk about AIDS.”
“Oh?” This got my attention. Many Chinese people have very little knowledge of AIDS and the thought that he might know something about it gave me a little hope. “Yes, I hear it is a big problem in other countries.”
“It’s a big problem in China too.”
“I don’t think so.” He crossed his arms and frowned again. Why does he keep doing that? It’s strange for a grown man to pout.
“About 2 million Chinese people may have it.” TRUTH. Mostly poor people in the cities who get it on with poor prostitutes and either can’t afford protection or don’t know how to protect themselves.
He cocked his head to the side and looked at me quizzically. “How do you know? I’ve never heard anything like that.” “It’s publicly available information. Look it up if you like.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll never get it.” I couldn’t help but notice a smug smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “How do you know? How do you protect yourself from it?”
“I will ask my partner if they have AIDS. If they say no then it’s okay.” My hopes were dashed. “What if they don’t know they have AIDS?’
“Why wouldn’t they know?” He legitimately couldn’t see what was flawed with his statement. Uggghhh… “Are you serious? You joking with me?”
“No. What do you mean?” he asked.
“Most people who have AIDS don’t know they have it until they get very sick. So they can spread it to other people without knowing it.” “Then how do you know if you have it?”
“You go to the hospital and they test your blood. That’s the only way you can be sure.” “Really?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Gah!” I gave up and we spent the rest of the lesson talking about the difference between Western and Chinese toilets.


  1. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  2. Ohh wait… wait until they tell you what happens to people in China after they get aids…. or have HiV…. you wont believe what you hear…. I think i will write my next blog about that.

  3. I would have to say you handled this situation with more grace than I may have. But then again, I probably wouldn’t have touched topics like that with a twenty foot pole with the person you were talking to.

  4. Nothing like banging your head against a brick wall in China is there?

    • hehehe…”….banging your head against a brick wall” I have been there and done that….LMAO

  5. I’ve come to dread having this guy in class, especially when there are women in the room. Educated women in particular since they always (and justifiably) get livid when they hear some of the things this guy says. Needless to say, he’s enjoying the single life and it looks like it’ll stay that way for quite a while.

  6. Believe me, whether you think he’s getting it or not, he’s listening. And when he’s alone, he thinks about these conversations with you. I’ve had many conversations with people like this on my travels; one conversation in particular comes to mind. A group of women in a very outlying region of Afghanistan stared incredulously at me as I told them the story of how women fought for the right to vote in America. They flat out did not believe me, argued me down, then booted me out for “lying.” On a subsequent trip back there, the main woman who had kicked me out, took me aside and asked me to tell the story again to some other women in the village. This time, she listened, serving me tea the whole time & even made me a meal & offered a mat for me to sleep on that night.

    That student hears you, Ninja. And I’ll bet he never forgets these conversations you’re having with him. Don’t get frustrated. Just keep talking. You’re making a difference.

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