My worst nightmare probably involves some combination of hairy spiders, AIDS, and a brigade of machete-wielding circus clowns. But being trapped in a small room with a born again christian for three hours every day for a week might come in close second.
When I asked him what he did for a living, he told me he was “work free.” Sounded pretty good. Not wanting to ask if he had quit or been fired, I asked him what he wanted to do next. “Well, in the fall I will go to bible school. And then I will go to Egypt to teach people about Jesus.”
Uh-oh. It’s not that I don’t like Jesus. Maybe if he and I had met we would have really hit it off. What with him preaching love and turning over the tables at the market and all. It’s more like I don’t like extremist Christians telling me that I am, in fact, going to burn in eternal damnation.
“And what made you decide to do that?”
“It’s God’s will. He needs me in Egypt.”
Warning! Warning! Alien vessel at 6 o’clock. Keep him on the radar Scotty. We’ll try to make contact, but these fuckers are unpredictable, and I don’t want to risk an attack.
Sometimes teaching requires a level of diplomacy I never knew I was capable of.
For the first hour, it was easy to keep the conversation to less potentially explosive subjects. What do you NEED to use English for? What do you LIKE DOING in your free time.” The usual blah blah blah small talk stuff that turns English teachers into therapists and intensive training courses, at worst, into nightmares.
“What WOULD you do IF an elephant walked into the room right now?”
“If an elephant walked into the room right now, I would sit on him.”
“Would you sit on him? Or would you ride him?”
“Oh yes, ride him. Into the city.”
A student with a bit of an imagination is a language teacher’s best friend. Especially considering I’ve already asked this question at least fifteen times this week.
“What WOULD happen, IF you didn’t eat for a week?”
“I would be very happy.”
Well that’s a new one. He’s a normal sized guy, so despite a slight fear of an impending “well I throw up all my food anyways” response, I abandon tact and ask why.
He pauses, folding his hands. “When I first find my faith, I not eat for 23 days.”
“When you first FOUND your faith, you DIDN’T eat for 23 days?”
“Yes, I didn’t eat for 23 days. I was very happy.”
Ok. I suppose I can understand that. I hear fasting can have that effect. Besides, he tells me, you’re only hungry for the first two or three days.
But it wasn’t until we got to “might” that the real trouble started. Since he’s not working, I skip over the “Do you think we’ll have a meeting tomorrow? Well, we might…” prompts and start asking him what he thinks might happen with transportation/fashion/government/the environment in the year 2100.
“I think we might have flying cars.”
“I think we might have better health care.”
So far, so good.
Then, almost at the bottom of the prompt list, “What do you think MIGHT happen with family structures? Marriage, divorce, children, that sort of thing,” I ask.
“Well, I think they might be righter.”
Scotty, we’re going to have to raise that alert from orange to red.
Where do you begin correcting a sentence that has thrown both tact and grammar to the wind? With the grammatical structure? With the subjectivity of a right or a wrong when it comes to family structures? Teach him how to say “In accordance with Christian beliefs”? It was obvious where this was going, but I thought, hell, his English isn’t that great, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
“What do you mean exactly by ‘righter’?” I ask, thanking my lucky stars that Jesus needed him in Egypt and not in my English class for the next six months.
“Righter. For example, homosexual marriage is wrong. I think in the year 2100, it might be righter.”
Damn it Ensen, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be an opportunity for peaceful contact. Scotty! Launch the missiles, we’re under attack.