I recall seeing that exposé a year or so ago showing that undercover agents working for the Department of Homeland Security were able to smuggle weapons and bomb-making materials through TSA checkpoints with a success rate of 95%. This article (link) makes a great point that TSA is mostly just something to make us all feel better about a very rare occurrence. This is in addition to the fact that a large portion of the TSA agents I encounter tend to be loud-mouthed and condescending pricks. Yes, I know not all of them are like that, but I have never taken a trip that involved traveling through a U.S. airport where I didn’t encounter one.
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
Somewhere along the way, I must have made the right decision. In light of how things have turned out for me over the past few years, I really can’t help but believe that I’ve played my cards well. When I was a kid, I would often wish I lived or was from somewhere else, anywhere else. Well, not quite anywhere—a place where things happened would have been nice. Unless people have lived under the soul-crushingly oppressive boredom that looms over backwater hinterlands like southeast Oklahoma, they can never truly understand it. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Hillbilly Deluxe” by Brooks and Dunn, which glorifies this drudgery, was written about my hometown. In fact, the only way to survive in such a place is to somehow inoculate oneself against boredom, or learn to partake in the the things which people in these areas do to occupy their time—things like shooting animals, satellite television, and driving back and forth up and down Main Street on Saturday nights. Obviously, I never quite succeeded. Continue reading
I have accidentally said “fuck” to elementary students in two languages in two different countries, both within two weeks of arriving in those countries. Can you say the same? Probably not, I’m guessing, but no worries. It’s an extraordinarily simple thing to do. For example, in Korean, the word for “eighteen” is ship-pal and the word for “fuck” is sshib-bal (the only real difference is that the entry “s” sound is strongly aspirated for “fuck”). Therefore, you can probably understand how I once said, “I left home when I was fuck [in Korean].” Now, in the Taiwanese dialect of Chinese, the word for fuck is gahn, but the “n” sound is almost silent (on the mainland, this verb merely means “to do”). The main elementary school where I now work in Douliu City has a small English village and I’ve been assigned to teach the Airport class on Tuesdays and Fridays. On my first day, while attempting to say, “ A gun is very dangerous. You can’t take a gun on the airplane,” my voice wasn’t its normal self due to my allergies being particularly bad that day. So, with the help of nasal congestion, what I actually said was, “A fuck [in Chinese] is very dangerous. You can’t take a fuck on the airplane.” This leads me to a new personal goal I’ve established: whatever country I move to next, I want to make it at least a month before I accidentally swear at students in whatever language they speak.