While many of you call me Ginger, or Ginge or some even refer to me by my maiden moniker, Sinsabaugh, Byt my Chinese students call me Mai Lao Shi or Hamburger Teacher.
And this week, I had a lot of lessons beyond pickles and sesame seed buns.
For instance, the fourth graders. Thanks to them, I had to learn that a turtle in any other language is not just a shelled creature that outwits a tortoise, but a vulgar insult. Eggs is up there too, being another insult referring to slow and stupid. And being called turtle eggs? That’s enough to get one’s mouth washed out hot sauce.
So for class this week, I’m incorporating a lot of the words students are learning about Coming of Age, Rituals and Initiations. We will have an initiation with rituals to become older and wiser students –now nine, who will make a vow not to bully.
Part of the ritual will be eating a tea flavored Oreo cookie ( a favorite) stuffed with a flaming hot pepper.
Then, I inherited another student. His name is Ng. I know, a name without vowels. Ng is the son of a young guy named Eu. The pronunciation of his nams reminds me of the sound the clarinet players would make in band practice while wetting their reeds. Eu sold me a new computer last spring. He gave me a sweet deal, just three hundred bucks and fully loaded with every software you can imagine, including a few programs that were yet to be released in the States.
Eu invited me over to dinner last week when I made a trip to his store. (Every time Microsoft decides to do automatic updates, my bootleg English language settings switch back to Chinese). Eu made a gracious offer to invite me to dinner to meet his wife and son. He was such a hard worker that went the gigabyte, I had to say yes.
Eu drove me to his home in Kunming, way up in the hills on the north side. In Chicago terms, that would be like schlepping to Des Plaines from the Sears Tower then back again to bring me home. When I walked into their small apartment, Eu’s young wife had made a big spread of food, more than what I could eat in a week. I was as touched as I was full.
Then Eu announced, “There is someone I want you to meet.”
I heard the pitter-patter of little feet come out of the bedroom, belonging to a toddler wearing split pants and a big smile.
“This is our son, Ng. He is 18 months. We would like you to be his aunt and teach him English.”
I was touched, not that they thought I was the Anne Sullivan of English teachers, (being able to perform miracles with their son the way Miss Sullivan did with Helen Keller), I was touched by how much Eu and his wife loved their son. They knew English would change the course of his life. English is the new currency in China and Eu thinks I’m Chase Bank.
Meanwhile, I check out blips about Chicago Public Schools on the internet. The continuing saga of pending strikes and low test scores. Girls who can’t even read the directions on the box of birth control.
Now I’m not paid much teaching English in China, but it’s definitely more rewarding than sitting through a client meeting debating if a new cereal should be described as crispy or crunchy in their advertising.
Even if my students call me Hamburger Lao Shi. At least their not calling me turtle eggs.