it’s been a long time since i’ve stepped foot into a formal classroom, and i must say in true Martha fashion, “it’s a good thing.” back in school, my propensity to commit to memory the exact years Before Christ/Anno Domini when ancient civilisations perished from immoral mass orgies was directly related to what i had for breakfast, whether i even had breakfast, if i’d successfully shouted louder than my dad and the mess of chemical cocktails in my brain i can now calmly label as teenage angst (though back then i’d have simply whined “you just don’t understaaaaaaand” even if you did).
you get all kinds of people in a classroom, even if it’s just beginner’s French.
you have the Napolean, the croissant au fromage, the Foreign Kid, the Joker, the Dipper, the femme au foyer and my personal favourite, the Ho. and then the rest.
the Napolean, she’s obviously had exposure to French, sits on a trove of French vocabulary unheard of by the beginner who’s barely gone past oui, je parle un peu français, has an insatiable thirst to conquer just one more word and has to be markedly better than everybody. the Napolean in my class is in a class of her own. when le professeur poses a question to an entire class of struggling beginners and is inundated by a barrage of uncoordinated answers, she exclaims “yes!” when it is clear she’s got the right answer. it doesn’t matter that 60% of the class got it right too, she was louder.
the croissant au fromage is so boring, even the cheese drips in despair from her ears.
in UAE where everyone’s from everywhere but the UAE itself, the Foreign Kid’s all of us. a Lebanese, a Syrian, an Egyptian, Palestinians, a Japanese, a Pinoy, Indians, a Brit and a Singaporean. except there’s always one foreign kid more foreign than the rest. this Foreign Kid’s usually got a thicker and funnier (subjective, of course) accent than her classmates and is always plastered with an ever ready to please Cheshire grin. this kid also either has a double/triple/quadruple-syllable name which is repeated twice/thrice unto itself or a name so foreign, it’s easier to call her in cl!cks.
the joker’s almost always un homme. few women are comfortable with pulling their skirts up over their heads, then laughing in a fake French accent “heu heu heu” (silent Hs, dohnt foegeht-aaah?) over her granny underwear. he usually bravely constructs funny out-of-context sentences in broken (and sometimes beguilingly proper) French.
the dipper. he/she’s just taking up French because he/she can and he/she wants to. he/she’s more than likely to have already learnt the language of someone else’s mother but his/hers, dipping into a language here and there to see which sticks or tastes the sweetest.
the femme au foyer‘s bored out of her mind and craves to leap out of her little world that is the foyer. she has kids, or doesn’t, finds French romantic even if the fishmonger’s just saying un deux trois quatre or screaming merde!.
unfortunately, i haven’t found a Ho for a very long time. the Ho dresses/looks/talks like and/or is a Ho. or is taking foreign language classes to impress a gentleman-friend or lady-friend outside the perimeter of the school. or is taking foreign language classes to net a rich, Viagra-addicted foreign old fart/fartess. or even more entertainingly, is taking foreign language classes to score with the other classmates.
my classmates are decent people and it’s far too cold for anybody to dress like a Ho. i’m hoping that when summer comes and pheromones are roasting in the air along with good temperaments, that the Ho will emerge.
i am part Dipper, a quarter Napolean and one of two homemakers in class. i’m not the one who sits on the chest of hidden French vocab, throwing them out in class like ninja stars. i do, however, gloat like a burst of intergalactic sex inwardly when i get the right answer. i just have a burning need to stretch what i know i can do and surprise myself (potential’s such a dirty “p” word) – just don’t make me do math though biology/chemistry are fine. sometimes i wish i was trashy enough to dress like a Ho but i am far too chicken shit for that and would rather wear my creased capris and Rockports.
i’m exhausted, but nowhere nearly as exhausted as Ravi and his colleagues are. sleeping half an hour and shuttling to Dubai only for classes and spending 2 hours in a giant vibrator that is the cab with lousy suspension is all that i need to stamp approval on an afternoon nap for myself. after all, people who regularly nap have better hearts by a whopping 37% which makes me 37% happier and 37% less likely to sleep easily at night.
here are some shots from the window of the apartment we are putting up at in Abu Dhabi. with views like these, National Geographic tv, an endless supply of clementines and chocolate milk, you’d put on 2kg too.
cooking for the masses. nasi goreng ikan bilis, bergedil, omelette (always for Ravi the baby chicken killer), pak choy in oyster sauce and stir-fried vegetables, all served on old newspapers, i love it when we’re so gangsta.