Saturday, January 06, 2007

they drink in every detail

Yesterday's free classes went well. I had five eager students for French class; we went through basic pronunciation by starting with the French alphabet. After practicing the sounds and reviewing the names of the letters ("aash" for H, "zhi" for J, "doo-bluh-vay" for W, etc.), I put students to the task of asking each other for the spelling of their names. All this took longer than I thought: about forty minutes out of the hour. We then did a few exercises out of a new textbook I'm using called Initial. The textbook is all in French, which is the way I like it. Students looked at a map and began to learn the French names for countries in Western and Central Europe. The idea wasn't to get them to memorize the names; that would have been too much. Instead, the exercise simply asked students to look at a list of country names and check the names of four countries that share a common border with France.

Pronunciation caused a lot of giggling, as it did when I taught French in America. Some sounds, like the French "u," are cause for merriment everywhere, it seems. I usually tell my students that we don't have the French "u" sound in American English, but that's not entirely true: remember "Valspeak" from the 1980s? Those California Valley Girls popularized the expression "totally tubular," and the first "u" in "tubular" was, effectively, the French "u." Come to think of it, the "o" in the Valspeak "totally" often sounded a bit like the German "ö"-- Du bist so schööööön! (Imagine mooing.)

The class was great, and the hour flew by. This stuff is old hat; I can teach it in my sleep, quite unlike Greco-Roman mythology.

That was 1-2pm. My 4pm English Circle had six students. We spent a lot of time planning what we wanted to do for our remaining six weeks, and settled on the following: watching "Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2," cooking an international meal (ha ha-- Mexican and Vietnamese, with Nigella's chocolate mousse as a followup!), seeing a play or musical (the girls are leaning toward The Lion King; I asked them to find out whether the performance would be in English or in Korean), playing board games, and finishing the semester with... I should've known this would happen... a Korean food fest. I'll be cooking ddeok-bokki.

A lot of laughs during our two hours together; the English Circle is mostly freshmen, plus one undergrad student whom I'd taught a few semesters ago.

The mood was spoiled twice by me and my errant biology, however. No, I didn't accidentally fart (though I suspect that day is coming). The first problem was that a tiny little spit bubble escaped my mouth while I was talking at one point. It was small enough not to be seen by the inattentive, and it didn't land anywhere near a student, but I suspect everyone saw it because I reacted by reflex to it. No one said a word, of course. These aren't American students, who will pick up on every moment the teacher falters and react right away to it.

The second problem was even worse. To my horror, as I was breathing through my nose, I felt a dried booger in my left nostril coming loose. Each cycle of breath-- inhale, exhale-- was making the booger swing as if on hinges, tickling my nose hairs and alerting me to impending disaster. I was in the middle of brainstorming ideas with my students, turning toward the chalkboard to write notes, turning back to the students to gather ideas, when it happened: the booger flew out.

And it wasn't small.

Luckily, I was turned toward the chalkboard when it happened. But I think at least two students saw the furtive launch, as they were seated close enough to the wall with the chalkboard to have picked up alien movement. The booger shot straight downward, bouncing on the great curve of my gut, then landing somewhere on the floor. Snot defenestration. Again, no one said a word, but I was... how shall I say... mortified. I felt like a diarrhetic ballerina on stage. There was nothing I could do except keep talking. The show had to go on.

Good thing this isn't summer, or I'd be dealing with the ass crack sweat issue.

I'm not betting that my two biohazard moments went unnoticed. Girls everywhere are sharp in general when it comes to assessing one's look; because they are trained from an early age to recognize and prevent the occurrence of Situations That Mortify, I'm assuming that these two incidents will have been filed under "for future reference" and "approach Kevin with caution-- he is armed and dangerous." It might almost have been better to fart in class. Fuck.

But the session ran a bit overtime and everyone was still cheerful, as though nothing had happened. We are now all looking forward to a "Kill Bill"-fest next week, and my veteran undergrad asked me, post-booger, if she could borrow my DVD of "Equilibrium." Since she was closest to me when the terrible event occurred, I take her continued willingness to talk to me as evidence that all is forgiven.


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