Friday, 25 January 2013

Strawberry Flavoured Poo and Fish Flaps

Strawberry Flavoured Poo, Fish Flaps and other Stories

Getting a bollocking is a frequent occurrence in life as an English teacher at the school I'm currently working in. It doesn't necessarily mean that you've done anything wrong or indeed that you are doing anything wrong as a teacher, I think it's merely a device to put you in your place. It's sometimes funny and sometimes frustrating but with hindsight it's usually more amusing than anything else. When I first came to Taiwan and started teaching here I remember being pulled aside by the manager at the time and was sternly asked if I used the word 'rubbish' in the classroom to which I replied 'yes'. It was then explained to me that it would not be tolerated in the classroom as none of my students should ever be subjected to being compared to trash. In fact I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment because I never actually compared any of my students to garbage, I merely used it as a joke with the students when they wrote bad sentences on the board by saying “rubbish” in a high pitched voice and never once referred to anyone as garbage but this didn't seem to matter as here perception is nine tenths of the law. If you are perceived to be insulting someone then you are insulting them. This was even more apparent about six months ago when a little girl decided to stop attending one of my classes. She claimed that I said she had done a really big poo in class and proceeded to encourage all of the other students in the class to laugh at her. I received a massive telling off and multiple warnings for the use of “poo” and “strawberry flavoured poo poo” respectively. First of all, I must admit that I did use both of those words in my classroom, however what was neglected and never discussed was the fact that I was trying to stop the children from using them in order to 'save face' for a child that was being joked about by the other children in the class on each occasion. I like to have banter with the children I teach and sometimes words such as 'poo poo' or phrases like “you have a girlfriend” might get thrown into the mix but that seems unacceptable to the parents and therefore management here. What was never asked was the context of my usage. On both occasions I said something along the lines of “Noooo.... such and such doesn't kiss poo poo” and “Who would eat strawberry flavored poo?!”... and was never once aimed directly at a child. That seems unimportant however as if I said such a term it was obviously used by a grown man to insult a minor... what other purpose could it serve in a classroom?

I'm not the only teacher to experience misunderstandings with my use of English and a rather funny anecdote by a friend of mine springs to mind. Prior to teaching a demo class in front of parents at an open evening for his school one of my friends was required to pre-teach the word 'vacuum'. Of course there were some pronunciation errors and a misunderstanding ensued. His school approached him and asked why he had been teaching his students to go home and say what sounded like “fuck you” to their parents on open day. So in order to clear the air so to speak and avoid any more misunderstandings I'd just like to say that it's okay Taiwan; we love you and can accept your inability to consider all the facts all the time. So in jest I'd like to offer a list of anecdotes from my classroom over the last two years. Just before I start though I'd like to say that I'm as prone to a blunder as anyone. While playing a game that required children to draw a picture of a fish on a scrap of paper and proceed to use a foam tile to waft the paper towards a finish line in a race; I scalded two naughty students by saying: “Right! Fish! Flaps!... back in the box!”... I can't remember using the words 'fish' and 'flaps' together since the age of about fourteen. For those who don't get it 'fish flaps' is a childish insult to imply a girl hasn't been washing her lady bits. I used to – actually still do a bit – find that term hilarious when I was younger. So here is the list of anecdotes that I promised earlier in the post – ten of them in fact – in descending numerical order:

  1. I'm a weiner”: This one might not be funny to fellow Brits but is somewhat amusing to me. It tickles me because it contains two mistakes. I like to wind children up during team games and award the points to the losing competitor as a little joke on occasion and at least 50% of the time the child will respond with the quote in bold. What they actually intend to say is “I'm the winner” but instead they accidentally compare themselves to a child's genitalia.

  1. Finger Fun!”: I have an incredibly childish sense of humour. The children at our school are awarded tokens as a form of positive reinforcement by the school. Perhaps they do well on their homework and receive a token as a reward. Once they collect a sufficient number of these tokens they can choose a toy from the prize cabinet. One of the prizes is a set of finger puppets perhaps unfortunately named in bold.

  1. Lee is a boob!”: Sometimes when I mark a student's book I will draw them a picture of a smiley face and some girls tend to enjoy this and return often with pictures of me in dresses or some other form of silliness that is funny and quite cute. One day, an eight-year-old boy, by the name of Dragon wanted to show his appreciation for a game we play in class. It's a game that encourages the quick production of vocabulary where students pass a ball in a circle under a time limit and say a word from the relevant lexical set in order to avoid being blown up by the pretend 'bomb'. It turns out Dragon can't spell bomb and when I marked his book that day... he called me a boob. :D

  1. Hello Klitty”: There is no imitation better than a Chinese produced rip-off of a popular brand. Seeing a girl wear this phrase on her sweater certainly brightened up my day.

  1. Sex!... Sex!... Sex!”: I quite regularly play a game in class that requires students to roll a die. They often desire the number six and shout it repeatedly. They fairly often can't pronounce it. This results in them shouting like kinky tourette's sufferer.

  1. Skipping Rape!”: Another toy from the prize cabinet at school. In America it's called a 'jump rope' there is probably no joke but in England we know it as a 'skipping rope'... Chinglish once again prevails...

  1. I like to eat Fanny!”: In response to the question: “What do you like to eat?”, a little boy called William responded by replying that he liked to eat another student in the class... she had an unfortunate name...

  1. Cunt!”: Chanel failed her spelling test and she can't spell 'count' either...

  1. Send the package to Rodney.”: Sometimes students have trouble pronouncing words that end in '-ge' resulting in them saying utterances of 'oranjeeeee' instead of 'orange' or a racial slur instead of 'package'.

  1. I want to wank the dog.”: Sandy can't spell walk... bless her!!!!!!

These are all unfortunate language errors and are easily corrected without anyone ever being embarrassed should the correct courtesy and acceptance of cultural and linguistic hiccups be applied...

Peace x

Nankan: are you truly ugly?

I'm leaving Taiwan in around two months and while the date of my departure is not confirmed yet it is starting to feel like the end. I have handed in my notice at my current position and I'm starting to receive replies from job applications in Vietnam and Thailand. I'm very excited about the future and looking forward to knowing where I'm going to be heading in the very near future.

I have had an interesting time over the last two years in Taiwan and have met some characters. I am always hard on Nankan – the city where I currently reside – for being ugly so today I went out to try and prove to myself that even ugly industrial towns in north Taiwan have some beauty. Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder but if you look hard enough you can always find something nice and unexpected.

I left the house armed with my camera and only an idea that I wanted to find the heart of the town I live in before I leave. To be honest, I don't really know what I mean by that, but I traipsed off towards the centre of town. I quickly popped to the convenience store to buy some sushi to take with me in case I got hungry and bumped into two expats that also live here. They were having an afternoon beer and didn't seem to impressed by my idea of walking around Nankan with a camera and preferred to drink in the winter sun as opposed to aimlessly walking around in it.

The first thing I did was head to one of the local markets which is incredibly small but there are plenty of people knocking around to make it worth a pass by, I noticed a lady cutting and selling bamboo and some guys fixing a house up a ladder without much care in the world. They thought it was funny that I took a picture of them but really I always find it funny/alarming when people so carelessly throw safety concerns to the wind. After that I headed towards an abandoned temple on a hillside which can't be seen from the city really due to the highrise buildings blocking it. On my way to the temple I saw a pen containing a random assortment of animals including plenty of chickens, some goats and some deer. This was pretty cool but further on up the path I stumbled across some birds in the trees and a few on the power lines crossing the path and once I'd approached and scared them and then remained still for a bit they returned and seemed to be enjoying themselves again. Taiwan is full of lots of bird life and I wish I'd taken the opportunity to try and spot more of it.

After I'd scared the birds and got a photo that looked like one was mooning me I headed for the temple. The temple is locally believed to be cursed and I've always meant to take some photos of it. So today I at least achieved that goal. I stopped at the temple for something to eat and a rest and watched the sunset – one thing to be said for Nankan is that it is definitely very ugly from street level but from an elevation while it is getting dark there is a certain charm, but saying that I guess a sunset can add a touch of glamour to a photo of anything.

After watching the sunset I decided to try and get lost on the way home to see if I could find anything new in Nankan before I left. I failed on finding anything new but feel that I was moderately successful in finding at least some beauty in a very ugly town. :D