Thursday, May 17, 2007


I have bought the lavender, chips and buns. At five o'clock, six students--few of whom speak English with any ease--will arrive at my house. I will stuff them with hot dogs, cupcakes and lemonade.

Before I decided to take on this International class, I was working on a novel with a character who taught ESL. The classroom scenes were always delightful: a comedy of lovely linguistic errors. The true experience is nothing like I imagined. We will sit--rather awkward but still somehow charmed, just happy to be in each other's presence. We will nod a lot but say very little, and then they will leave. Jiexun will take the remaining food. Sung and Jae Shin will thank me profusely though Sung will likely have snuck in alcohol. Hyeji and Li will speed away with Jordan in his sports car as I stand on the stoop waving and smiling. I'll take a damp sponge to the counter wondering why we do it, all the reaching out, the trying to understand.

Honestly, it sometimes seems easier with these students. From the beginning there is no pretense of understanding or construct of shared space. Every gesture is new; every word is reaching towards connection.

A lotus blossom
, I tell my students. Unfolding.

They laugh at my attempt to translate into what I believe is their culture.

they ask. Red rose, and again we nod, smile, pass the potato salad, unknown flowers blooming wildly in our heads.

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