Friday, March 13, 2009

Taiwan teaching stories: My favorite student

This was my best student ever, a KTV girl. It was a Lilly student of course.

On the first day, her friend, tall, confident, worldly and apparently a waterbed saleswoman, came to translate, after that it was just the two of us and the fifty or so words we had in common.

Three afternoons a week at three o’clock, I came to the apartment and rang the doorbell for five minutes to wake her up; she came to the door in a towel, and then took a shower while I sat on the sofa. After a while, I could recreate her perfectly from just the sound of the water bouncing off her body.

Then she would emerge in a skin tight pair of pink shorts and a little t-shirt clearly thinking wrongly she was dressed for class and I was a professional.

During class, she chain-smoked – in fact, I bought her cigarettes because it was relief from having to smell her freshly washed hair, and remind myself of where she just come out of.

She tried very hard, handicapped by a hangover and the thudding in her head of loud Taiwanese men barking her instructions to drink and remove clothing. She also made the complaint ‘hao rhr’ every 10 minutes and I taught her ‘yes, it is hot’.

I told myself that my glances at her were fleeting, yet I could create a perfect life size model of her with those momentary snatches.

Over the weeks we communicated with her electronic dictionary. She was as convinced of her stupidity as she was the state of the weather – “Wo hen ben” – she said every five minutes and I would reply ‘no you are not stupid’ while thinking, she was right on that one, and God that was attractive.

I thought of the moral dilemma: What is a man supposed to if he was stuck in a room with a pile of money and nobody else was around? Then again, I was worried I would lose the student when I really needed the money.

I was sure she was thinking like me: ‘we are but two people deserted on a desert island and we have no choice but make a pact out of necessity to make love and say nothing when we are rescued’. Then again, maybe, she thought she was having an English lesson, not wrestling to find a solution to an extraordinary complicated circumstance.

I had convinced myself that it would be normal to conduct the class naked. Her thin and figure-hugging clothes wound me up like the silk scarf or the carefully placed camera angle on your favorite actress’s nude scene, that leaves you throwing that DVD at the wall feeling cheated.

This turning over of possibilities and desires accelerated as the class proceeded…In the final five minutes, I was sure it was okay to ask…Once outside the door, I told himself it was better that way, and commended myself on my self-control.

I was put out of my misery after about a month. After ringing the doorbell for longer than usual another girl answered the door. “Ne shir wo di 3:00 ma (Are you my 3:00 o’clock?)” she asked.

I didn't understand. “Where is Angel?” I asked. Girls who worked in these places always called themselves ‘Angel’ - Nobody could say the Taiwanese didn’t have an ironic sense of humor.

“Shei (Who?)”

“Angel, I teach her at 3:00.”

He heard a noise from inside and the girl answered, “No. Here.”

I hesitated for a moment wanting to get to the bottom of this mystery then accepted the fact the world wasn’t going to put itself right that afternoon and went on my way.

“Hey, what is san dien?” I asked with a flick up of the chin to Pierre that evening.

“Ah, SAN DIEN!” Pierre traced the tones with his fingers: a flat line for SAN and then down and up along a semi-circle for DIEN. “3 o’clock of course.”

“Shit,” I said trying to think about how much money I had in my wallet at that time - If I hadn’t missed out.

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