Class Discussion

photo by weaving major
I teach ESL to adults in St. Paul, MN. I love my job and my students pretty effing hard and on a pretty regular basis they bring me to tears of a) laughter b) tenderness c) both. But then we all know that I’m a weeper.

Past discussions I’ve had with students:

  • The first time a student’s husband “loved” her
  • How delicious snake and monkey are
  • If they will get a body like mine from drinking Pepsi
  • Why I have boobies but their Chinese teacher doesn’t
  • If ghosts live exclusively in the ocean
  • Why I have hair like a lion
Equally hilarious is trying to explain any sort of western holiday or celebration. I tried to teach my students about Independence Day with wee, England and America shaped puppets, and a ridiculous story about how England was the mother and America was the unruly child. This was obviously met with blank stares and “Teacher, no.”

So, when I read David Sedaris’s “Jesus Shaves” story I thought “David Sedaris! What are you doing in my classroom!? Get out of there, you!” It is, of course, hilarious and chronicles what happens when David begins taking french classes (in France) and his class tries to explain the concept of Easter to a Moraccan classmate.

Here just a bit of an excerpt.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. “It is,” said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . . oh, shit.”
She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
“He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber.”
The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
“He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father.”
“He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.”
“He nice, the Jesus.”
“He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.”
Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as “To give of yourself your only begotten son.” Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.
“Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb,” the Italian nanny explained. “One, too, may eat of the chocolate.”
“And who brings the chocolate?” the teacher asked.
I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, “The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.”
My classmates reacted as though I’d attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.

In Praise of Non-traditional Adulthood

photo by fayebatka

 

Lately, a lot of my favorite online haunts have been rife with talk of quarter-life crises and the reality of adulthood versus the rose-tinted nostalgia of our childhoods. Heavy stuff, surely! But it got my little brain a’workin on the topic of adulthood and how we all choose to use ours.I think we can all acknowledge that the American formula for a adulthood goes something like this:
1) attend four-year university
2) meet your special someone while attending said university
3) graduate and move in with special someone
4) get your starter job
5) marry special someone
6) advance in your job
7) baby #1
8) buy a house
9) baby #2
10) move the the suburbs, eat out exclusively at Olive Garden, spend your weekends engaging in lawn care and taking kids to soccer practice, slowly die inside.

I kid, I kid.

Kind of.

But what happens to those of us who don’t find the special someone? Or discover that we can’t get a job with that Anthropology degree? Or feel claustrophobic at the thought of being tied down by a career/spouse/child?You know what? I think it’s the pretty rare individual what actually follows this formula … though that doesn’t keep a lot of us from measuring ourselves against it. How silly! In my entire extended group of friends, I know exactly one person who has followed this formula (at least thus far, she’s on step six at this point … there’s no telling where she’ll go from there!) the rest of us have switched universities, ended long term relationships, had babies before we finished school or bought the house before the wedding. We have taken the scenic route, or a road less traveled or even a series of (interesting) dead ends.

None of this is to say that following the formula is bad. Babies are lovely! Weddings are grand! And lord but I would love to live in something bigger than a breadbox! But I think there’s a lot to be said for this non-traditional approach to adulthood and living life on our own terms, really thinking about the life and future we want for ourselves rather than swallowing this college+wedding+baby notion.

We need to stop punishing ourselves for deviating from what society has taught us is The Correct Way to navigate our 20s and 30s. I will not be ashamed of the holes in my resume resulting from world travel. I won’t be embarrassed to admit that I’m not a home-owner. I won’t blush and stammer when my nosy aunt asks me when I’m going to start making babies.

How closely have you followed the formula?

Weekend Project: Origami Crane Table-topper

Origami and I go way back. I spent nearly every Sunday of my childhood repurposing the Aitkin United Methodist Church bulletins into cranes, boxes, frogs and functioning Mt. Fujis, much to the annoyance of my parents. But now! I’ve used those same skills to whip up this cheap and easy center piece.

Ingredients:
Magazines
Scissors
Tall glass cylinder

1) Pull out your giant stack of magazines. Don’t lie, I know you have them! Rip out pages that are mostly monochromatic and fit the color scheme you’re going for.


2) Square off your pages by folding them into a triangle and cutting off the extra bits. I like to make different sized squares, so I can have a few wee cranes in the mix. It pays to be anal retentive here, because if your paper isn’t a square you’ll end up with a wonky duck, not the crane you’re after.


3) Following these instructions, fold your squared magazine pages into sweet little cranes!

4) Stuff your cranes into your glass cylinder and bask in the smugness of creating such cool centerpiece in 10 minutes with your old Cosmos.

Adventure: Republican Convention

So, I am something of a bleeding heart liberal. I work in Frogtown, weep over the plight of baby seals and have an MPR sticker in the window of my vintage Saab. It’s all very predictable and slightly embarrassing. Why, yes, I do work in social services! And, yes, I am a vegetarian! Why do you ask? Did my birkenstocks give me away?So it was with equal parts trepidation and glee that The Mister and I headed into the fray that was the Republican Convention, hosted by our very own St. Paul. I wore the cowboy hat in an effort to disguise my woefully obvious liberal-ocity. But I suspect it was more Michelle Branch than Michelle Bachman.

While we were there, Sam witnessed a “dirty hippie” handing out bumper stickers promoting his own run for the presidency. His tag line? “Weasel and Shark ’08!” Sam went over to chat the guy up and take a few photos and was joined by some portly, rather drunk convention enthusiasts. They cooed over his camera lenses, hassled the hippie and wanted to know “where’s the action, maaaan?”
Sam assured our drunk friends that, despite his beard and flip flops, he wasn’t actually aware of any exciting plans in the works. So we left the drinkers and the hippie to their own devices and took a seat outside the convention center while I made eyes at middle aged senators.
A few minutes later, I looked back and saw our drunks actually taking off their shirts. They dug around in their backpacks, pulled on some black t-shirts and baseball hats and headed into the crowd, oddly and instantly sober. And you will not believe what the t-shirts said:
Authorized Personel.
They were undercover cops, trying to flush out protesters and get wind of any trouble in the making.
I think it was my cowboy hat that made them suspicious.

If you were a music video, which one would you be?

One of my favorite games is, “If you were a ______, what would you be?” For this edition, let’s examine music videos.
Now, this shouldn’t be confused with the all important question “What’s your favorite music video?” I really love Bjork’s ‘Big Time Sensuality‘, but I don’t possess big time sensuality, nor do I ride on truck beds through the city.

There are two music videos that I like to think are very nearly me. This one and this one.

But the winner? I feel like this video is me on my very best day:

Why?

1) a clear love of choreographed dance routines
2) international references
3) hook from my favorite Swedish super-group
4) nod to vintage warm-up gear, not unlike my favorite Adidas track suit from 10th grade
5) I, too, love light-up boom boxes
6) Madonna is my hair twin
7) Dancing by yourself and singing? That’s pretty much my favorite pastime

What about you? If you were a music video, which one would you be?