Monday, November 26, 2012

Small Talk

During lunch and the occasional dinner at school, more often than not I opt to sit and eat with my students in the cafeteria. Usually, I just grab my tray, look for an empty seat, and sit down, to the surprise of the students already at the table. They are always surprised by this, as if three months of making this into a habit hasn't really sunk in for them yet.

Unfortunately, I am a rather slow eater, and this means that I'm usually one of the last people left in the cafeteria. Some students feel obligated to sit with me until I finish, nudging their leftovers around their bowls and kinda-sorta participating in conversation with me while they wait. I've found that the female students are generally more willing to chat, and they ask me about my high school and college experiences, among other things. I really enjoy discovering what my students are thinking, or at least what they are thinking that is within the scope of their English abilities to articulate.

But the other day I was eating dinner at school when my young table-mates all excused themselves at the same time to go play badminton or something. I thought that I'd be left to finish my rice alone, when two second-year male students came into the cafeteria. It was pretty late, and I wondered if they'd been studying (or sleeping in the study room) for so long that they missed the dinner bell or something. I motioned to them to come join me, and then began the typical small talk.

But in my effort to make conversation, I ended up with the following exchange:

The student who loves yogurt.
Me: JH, what were you doing just now?
JH: Hm?
Me: What were you doing before you came to dinner? Why are you late?
JH: Oh... I was... taking poop.
Me: What?
JH: Poop.
Me: Oh! Okay, sorry I asked.
JH: Slowly, and carefully.
Me: Okay! That's good, that's enough. (thinking: Let me eat, please!)

JH laughed, and his friend laughed, and I finished my dinner, and then JH's friend proceeded to eat six cups of yogurt while we sat in a nearly-empty cafeteria and talked about things other than poop.

Moral of the story: so maybe I don't always want to know what my students are thinking! But regardless, it's endearing.

Translate