Wednesday, November 18, 2009

and go south in the winter. ("The Show Must Go On" edition)

Remember how I was complaining about the heat and humidity in Guangzhou a mere two and a half months ago? (Have I been here this long already?) I said in that post that "you should just assume that I'm sweaty all the time, unless I explicitly say otherwise."

I have big news: I am not currently sweaty. It was a blustery day in Guangzhou, city of heat and humidity, except, it appears, when it's totally not. Chinese friends (really, I mean Gristle. Only Gristle.) say that this is the earliest, coldest winter in recent memory, and my students are freaking out. Most of my students were wearing turtlenecks, jackets, and scarves. One student had mittens attached to his (his!) scarf, and consequently spent the entire period with his hands in front of his fact, periodically blowing on his fingers to keep them from freezing.

Guess what temperature it was today based on the weather applet on my computer. Go on, guess.

53 degrees.

I wore a shirt and blazer to class today and my students reacted with horror and anger at my apparent invulnerability to the cold. I told one of my classes that I thought the weather was actually pretty comfortable, and I saw the following actual reactions from actual students: one girl's mouth fell open, another one shook her head in shock and disbelief, and one guy put his head in his hands. I am blowing their minds. Just another day in the life of Awesome Teacher Jon.

The security guards who patrol our school are wearing coats that look exactly like this:

Guys, it's 53 degrees.

Also, I found that picture by googling "communist jacket." First image result, baby. Do I know my communist jackets or what?

The surreality continues: Gristle came to our apartment this evening dressed in his cold weather gear.

Please everyone ignore my hair. It is windswept. And my strange face. It is [other excuse]. I just want you to focus on the fact that Gristle's cold weather gear makes him look like he just stepped out of a community theater production of "Waiting for Godot".

Sometimes when it's cold out, my mom will say that it is "frickin' freezing." This is my segue to Asians and swearing.

Our students' knowledge of English swear words is unbearably precious. Like, they have some weird lacunae in their dirty word vocabulary -- they don't know "poop" and "butt", but they know "shit" and "ass". Sometimes I hear them saying swear words, and it always makes me happy, because it shows that they're getting the hang of oral English.

Anyway, we were discussing the week in the countryside in class today, and one of my students said that one of the problems with living in the countryside is that there are lots of animals around, which means there are lots of "shits in the street." "Excellent," I said, "but we only use 'shit' in the singular. So actually there was just a lot of shit in the street. Can everyone say that with me? 'Lots of shit in the street'? Good." In the teaching biz, we call this a "teachable moment", and, as you can see, I taught the shit out of it.

And again, this evening, I was working with my (Korean) tutee on some idioms, and she told me that she had a question to ask me about English swear words, and that she was embarrassed to talk about it. I got excited and asked her in a whisper which English words she wanted to talk about. She said there was a word she had heard on a TV show, and that she had heard some kids using it, and she wanted to know about it. She blushed and said she didn't want to say it out loud.

No, I said, it's fine. There's no need to be embarrassed.

OK, she said. They were calling each other...loser. And they were making this gesture.

And then she slowly made an ell shape with her thumb and forefinger and held it down by her waist, grimacing at the obscenity of her gesture.

No, I said, sighing. That's fine.