No Sense Of Humour
Food is great – without it you die.
One of the great advantages of living in Bangkok and the cultural diversity that it contains is the sheer choice available for connoisseurs of that which is edible.
Just about any dish is available from any country and the Thai adapt their favourites which is generally done by adding chilli, lots of chilli.
Over the years I’d tried just about everything and had more or less liked what I’d eaten with the exception of Korean food which just didn’t grab me at all. Brigoggi was just palatable but Kimchi seemed just like sour, foul smelling
salad to my way of thinking and as a condiment for breakfast? Well, we are speaking about a race of people who speak of bear’s paws as a delicacy you know.
(The bears die in horrendous conditions whilst the Korean chaps munch away on their hacked off paws in the fantasy that this will make them more virile. Quite.)
Anyway, one Monday morning I’d got a call from Lak who happened to be the head secretary in a language school known to me. As my job entailed working afternoons and evenings this left me available to do some language instruction in the mornings
and pick up a few more pennies to pad out my decidedly non luxury lifestyle.
The classes were generally groups of Japanese housewives and it was interesting to compare their lives with mine as they would without fail live in some monster apartment complete with maid and driver, their sole contact with the locals being the maid
and driver and the reception desk in their apartment block. Of course they had a lot of contact with sales girls as the English they wanted to practise was slanted in one direction only – shopping, shopping and more shopping.
Lak said that she had a new class for me and if I wanted it would I care to arrive in the very near future?
Luckily the place wasn’t far away so I hastily got a necktie on and grabbed the first motorcycle taxi that hove into view.
After the ritual, ”Good mornings”, and, ”How are you(s)?”, Lak handed me the file containing the students names, attendance record and curriculum covered then told me which room they were in.
I grabbed a mug of coffee and made my way up the stairs to the third floor and into the classroom to be confronted by a gaggle of women sitting quietly and obviously divided according to race.
We had a group of Japanese, a couple of Thais and a bunch of Koreans.
Now, the first thing to remember in these situations is that they are not there to learn English but only to reinforce the parts of the language that they have already learned in their own country and if truth be told, to be entertained until it was golf
or shopping time. <You're a fast learner. This is so true, unfortunately. – Stick> But what the heck, it was fun and it was money.
I wrote my name on the board then announced it slowly so that the pronunciation would be nice and easy, then said, ‘Good morning’.
A chorus of, ‘good mornings’, replied as I took my seat and opened the file to see…..four Mrs Kims…….Koreans don’t seem to have a surfeit of family names, Lee, Park, Ro and Kim being particularly frequent which is convenient
I suppose if you happen to live in Korea cos’ you have at least a 25% chance of being correct when trying to remember someone’s name.
Well, I took the register, and as there were four Mrs Kims and one Mrs Park merely ticked the five boxes as I could see five Korean ladies without bothering to try and see which initial went with which face.
The first thing to do is always to see how confident the individual students are so that you can tailor questions according to the ability, (and confidence), of the individuals. After all, you don’t want to make it difficult for them, especially
first thing in the morning.
As I went round the class asking the standard openers, ”What food do you like?”, ”Where do you live?”, ”When did you come to Thailand?”, (always reserved for the Thais!), I came to the front row containing the
Korean contingent and asked, ”Mrs Kim, what place do you like in Thailand?”
A babble of replies met the question, the fact that I’d been going round the class clockwise from the back row seeming irrelevant to them, so I paused then looked directly at the one on the left before asking, ”Mrs Kim, where
do you like to go shopping?”. (I figured that if it was Mrs Park then she’d look at her neighbour, then I’d know who that was).
Once again a chorus of answers met my question. Somehow I don’t think that Koreans
would be very good at queuing.
I sat back in my chair then had a slurp of coffee when all of a sudden one of these inspirational Monday morning ideas hit me. Just one of these ideas where the bulb buried deep in your inner cortex suddenly illuminates and you think to yourself, ”Why
didn’t I think of that?…..Oh-I did.”.
“Ladies,”, I said, ”We seem to have some confusion here so what we are going to do is this”, then I pointed at the lady on the left and continued, ”Mrs Kim, and next to you is Mrs Kim one, then Mrs Kim two,”,
(and here I tried to stop but as always my tongue was working faster than my brain), ”And you can be Mrs Kimchi.”.
A sudden and ominous silence met this suggestion until the Japanese and Thai ladies covered their mouths and tried hard to stifle splutters of amusement as grim faced and silent the Koreans stood as one then filed out of the classroom and down the stairs.
“Oopsssssss!”, was my immediate thought.
As I looked around the class a collection of amused faces stared back at me until a giggling Thai voice said, ”Ajarn-mye phen rai.” (Teacher-never mind).
Well, that broke the ice and we carried on with the lesson until Noi, the younger secretary arrived through the classroom door at high speed and asked what was going on as she had a bunch of irate Korean women downstairs demanding their money back.
I explained, the Thai ladies explained, the Japanese ladies explained, all with much good humour may I add which caused Noi to crack up laughing and give me a hefty slap on the back before she wiped the tears from her eyes and descended the
stairs to the ground floor.
After the lesson was finished and the next one confirmed for two days hence, I duly made my way to reception to hand in the file where Lak and Noi were sitting convulsed with laughter as they looked at me and waved housewifely fingers in my direction.
“We have to give them their money back”, giggled Lak, and by way of reply I could only think to shrug my shoulders, until Noi butted in, ”Hey Colin-you like Kimchi?”.
Turning to her I laughed and said, ”Noi-I can’t stand her”, then walked to the door and into the sun pursued by laughter.
I reckon sitting in one on of your classes would be a hoot! (But there's no way in hell I'd send someone to study with you!)