Not so very long ago, somewhere, far down and at the center, was a chasm, yawning wide and deep. Or, maybe it was more like a cauldron, bubbling and boiling above some infernal blaze gods only know what. Fuck, I don’t know. It really defied any sort of discrete depiction in words, which I guess was at least partially the problem. I can tell you the places it was, though. That’s much easier. It pushed against the bottom of my heart. It tormented my diaphragm. It pulsated and writhed and twisted around against the outer walls of my lungs. It rumbled and roared and constricted, then erupted in shock waves that rippled outward to the ends of my fingers and toes and to the tips of my hair. It wasn’t always in the same place, but one of its favorite haunts was just inside my right breast, where it emitted an electric heat down my arm all the way to the ends of my fingernails. One dark night, as I lay in bed fearing yet another sleepless marathon to morning filled with a racing mind and encroaching terror, I attempted to communicate with it. I focused my mind’s eye on the little knot of flame and spoke directly to it. It’s okay that you’re here, I said. I won’t ignore or shout you down this time. I promise.
The word was necklace. It was a word I had introduced to my junior high students the previous week as we used a dialogue about a woman’s lost wedding ring to practice our speaking and pronunciation skills. The boy reached into the bucket of Pictionary words I’d created specially for this review game and pulled out the piece of jewelry one wears about the neck. I asked him if he remembered the word and he assured me he did. His teammates watched anxiously as I started the 1-minute countdown in which he’d have to draw a picture that they could then interpret correctly to give me the word. I yelled, “Ready, set, GO!” and watched his teammates for a raised hand. Then, after a few seconds, the entire class erupted in laughter. I turned to see what was so funny and discovered the boy, in a hurried attempt to draw a necklace with a small pendant had instead drawn what more closely resembled a penis with urethral opening. My wide eyes must have told him he needed to try again, which he did. Seconds later, more laughter–this time, he’d done a rather fine rendition of a vagina. Thankfully, his teammates were able to guess the word, and he was able to sit down without suffering any more embarrassment. In short, welcome to my life, friends. Continue reading
I have a recurring problem in my life, one that often rears its ugly head when I’m least able to combat it. It involves offering individual assistance to students and the tip of my nose—more specifically, the sweat beads that often form on the tip of my nose and periodically drip away like salty bomblets. You see, it’s hot here in Taiwan. The heat is hotter here than any I have experience enduring. The public school where I work, like most (if not all) public schools in Taiwan, does not have air-conditioning in the classrooms. Yes, you read that correctly: no air-conditioned classrooms. Only copious electric fans and the hope of decent crossflow. Taiwan is a wealthy country, but the government sees little need to install such an expensive luxury into buildings that sit mostly unused during the hottest part of the year. I guess I can see their point, but, still, the first week of classes was a delicate balance of teaching and monitoring every drop of moisture that formed on my face and attempting to avoid the unfortunate development of one of them sailing off and landing on a student’s book. The good news is that it’s only insufferably hot here for a few months from mid-June until about mid-September. The rest of the year is quite mild. On Sunday night at the end of my first week of teaching, a weather system moved through that cleared the air of humidity and lowered the temperature about 12 degrees Fahrenheit. The whole next week, I was blissfully sweat free. Victory, sweat victory. Continue reading