Monday, November 2, 2009

It couldn't have turned out better, really...

Towards the end of a recent shift at BIA I was standing behind the bar with Josy when a homeless man entered and shuffled his way towards us. He stood by the bar and asked Josy for a coffee or some food. Josy called through to the kitchen who put together some nachos and some leftover chilli and passed it through to us in a take-away box. Whilst he was waiting the man kept making these strange clicking noises with his tongue which were starting to drive me crazy so I was glad when the food finally arrived. He looked at it and asked how he was supposed to heat it up since he didn’t have a micro-wave. Now, it wasn’t entirely cold and did, in fact, look rather delicious – I would have been happy to eat it myself. Josy said that we weren’t going to heat it up for him and he began to argue for a minute or two before shuffling out clicking away to himself. We were just discussing his audacity (the phrase ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ perhaps more appropriate than ever before) when he marched back in with his take-away box, dumped it on the bar and said if we weren’t going to heat it up then he didn’t want it - then he stormed out. This whole episode made me especially angry because Josy had taken the time to prepare this food for him, it was perfectly acceptable food, delicious even, and he had effectively thrown this act of kindness back in her face. To make matters worse he came in again the following week to ask for something to eat and we all rounded on him and categorically said ‘no’. He smiled sheepishly, realised he’d lost a potentially reliable source of food for ever, and walked out with his tail between his legs.

During the last couple of weeks I have encountered two further personalities in my classes which are worthy of a mention. The first is a Cambodian lady of about 60 called Pom. She is in an absolute beginners’ class which is exactly the right place for her since she is one of the most challenging students I’ve had yet. She’s rather an intimidating lady with a shock of black hair, very small eyes emphasized by her black rimmed glasses and a mouth which is forever coated in a thick layer of peach lip gloss. Throughout the lesson she sits to attention with her legs apart and takes on the appearance of some sort of Eastern dictator. Despite her appearance she’s actually fairly friendly but, as mentioned before, her English skills require a lot of improvement. As I repeat the phrases over and over again for her she jettisons further and further from the original version until she has effectively created an entirely new sentence altogether. It takes every ounce of energy to rein her in and have her repeat something even vaguely similar to what I have said. Her dictations are an absolute minefield and I am sure to allow at least half an hour for a single dictation in her group because, more often than not, I will have to re-write hers entirely. She really does write what she hears and, considering she has a very limited knowledge of English words, together with a very poor ear for sounds, this results in catastrophe.

The second student is a quiet but very likeable guy called Lionel. He’s in an intermediate group with two other students. All three are of a fairly similar standard and, as a result, are a lot easier to teach than Pom’s group. I was teaching them the expression ‘to cheer someone up’ last week, a classic, which no-one ever seems to understand. In an attempt to make it clearer I explained to them that I had been teaching for six hours, it would take me an hour to get home (I was in the 16th for this class) and I hadn’t eaten yet, as such I was in a rather bad mood (I wasn’t, in fact, but it helped to demonstrate the point). Then I asked Lionel what he would say to me to cheer me up. He was silent for a moment whilst he thought of something appropriate before he tentatively replied ‘ are a very sympathetic teacher...?’ I beamed at him and congratulated him on his success in cheering me up – it had, actually, done just that. Then I asked him if he had meant ‘sympathetic’ or nice and he replied ‘oui, oui, les deux’ which just helped to boost my cheeriness even further. They understood the novel expression and I got a little pick me up for the rest of the class – I plan to use the same technique as soon as I have to teach ‘to cheer someone up’ again.

Last week I received an email from ‘A La Carte’, the rental agency I was unceremoniously fired from when the owner found someone with more experience than me four days into my trial period. I opened it with some trepidation expecting to find some claim that they had overpaid me or similar. In fact, the General Manager, Anne, had written to offer me a different job at weekends welcoming the new arrivals and showing them into their apartment. Although this would, no doubt, have been fairly easy money and something I would have quite enjoyed, I am already at capacity when it comes to working hours and, more importantly, I have too much pride to go back to work for that creep with the cruel blue eyes and orangey perma-tan. However, having said that, I am grateful to him because things couldn’t have turned out better. I have a varied and interesting schedule, have met a great deal of new and interesting people and don’t have to sit in an office bored to tears all day long. He has helped to reinforce my desire never to return to office work either in France, the UK or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

1 comment:

  1. keep have a crowd of us are so cool and write so well