In which the existence of beavers is doubted

art by falldowntree

Yesterday I brought my Burmese ESL student on a field trip to Fort Snelling State Park to learn about the niceties of hunting licenses, poison sumac and why we probably don’t want to eat snapping turtles. Our guide talked about all of these things while walking us through the park, pausing to point out things of interest.About half an hour into our walk, we happened upon a tree that had been gnawed down by a beaver. In rather complex and fast English, he explained the tree-felling/dam-building process. I turned to my students and attempted to “translate.”

Me: “One animal bites this tree and then makes a house with the tree.”

Skeptical Student: “A big animal, teacher? Elephant like tree.”

Me: “Oh no. This animal is a brother to rabbit, squirrel. Like this:” I make the universal sign for rodent, hands tucked under my chin and making clicking noises, exposing my front teeth

Student: “Ummm, no, teacher. A rabbit cannot eat a tree and make a house.”

Me: “It’s like a rabbit. It lives in the water. It takes the tree in the water and then makes a house.”

Student: “Ummm, teacher. No. A rabbit cannot swim.”

Me: “It is like a rabbit. It has a big tail (universal sign for beaver tail here) and it swims and then makes a house from the tree it bites.”

Student. “Sooooo, it is a fish rabbit that can bite a tree and make a house?” (totally incredulous)

Me: “Yes. Yes. It is a fish rabbit. It is a fish rabbit that bites trees.”

Student: “Oh yes. Okay. I know.”

He nods as if this now makes perfect sense and heads off to impart this knowledge to his classmates.

God help them if kangaroos ever come up.

10 Comments

Anonymous

I had to read this post to my boyfriend, since we returned in July from teaching ESL in South Korea for a year. . . it brought back some great memories of our students!

Reply
Sarah Von Bargen

@Gem: I think he told them “Teacher is talking shit again. Like that time with the hand puppets on July 4th. Let’s just nod and murmer and eat tamarind sweets till she leaves us alone.”

@Lana: Yes! I think I would have met with the same response. “Oh yes. Vagina Squirrel. I know.”

Reply
Erika

oh god. I love it. I have shared this blog entry with 3 people now and it has been met with the same response every time. You crack me up.

Reply
Joyeaux

You are so funny. I have just found your blog and am happily reading every entry starting from the beginning. Extremely enjoyable!

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