Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turtle Fur (龟皮) and Pen 15

I don’t mind getting taken by students, I think it’s funny if the joke’s on me. The thing is, you have to get me though. If you can’t get me, or come at me in some lame way, I’ll never let you hear the end of it.
I’ve been a part of some great high school pranks over the years: hijacking rolling administrator chairs for drag races in the hall, pulling tires off rival teacher's cars, re-assembling entire classrooms out in the hallway, impromptu teacher serenades, look… school can be a monotonous place, you’ve got to lighten things up.
Pranking teachers here in Taiwan is not a good idea. Well, at least I tried a couple of times and I failed miserably. Last year, my 9th graders pranked their homeroom teacher, a thirty-year vet they affectionately called “Octopus Lips,” by sticking cell phones in the ceiling tiles of the room and vibrating them all throughout class. (Thank you, it was my idea) Of course, poor Octopus Lips is so hard of hearing that prank went over like…well, a muffled vibrating phone stuffed in asbestos… next time… we’ll stick with a tack on the chair.
Other times I’ve pranked my colleagues but that failed too. I had the kids hide in the hallway once and jump out to sing Happy Birthday, but the homeroom teacher just frowned and said something about not reminding her how old she was… total fail!
Another time we hid in the ping pong room waiting to jump out and scare the vice principal, but he never walked by, and we got scolded instead creeping back to class… epic fail!
No wonder these kids would just rather study… it’s easier.
You’d think pranking foreign teachers would be a breeze, but they take it personal too. Who knew breaking apart a motor scooter and reassembling it in the school elevator would cause such a ruckus? Or photoshopping a co-workers face onto Mao Tse Dong’s body would create a nuclear winter? Really, can’t anybody take a joke?
One of the best pranks a kid every got me on back home was just a simple phrase he conned me into writing on the board. We were in World Lit playing some game and I was dividing the class into teams: Okay, you guys on the right are one squad; you on the left are another. Now come up with a team name.
Oh… kids come up with pretty stupid team names, and that’s kind of the point: “Chocolate Lovers” and “Obama’s Kids,” it’s nothing personal, just funny names to get you through class. But this one time, a smarmy jock named “Spang” (Sorry, Sean… you’re not really smarmy!) got me to write down his suggestion for a team name: “Pen 15”
At first I thought nothing of it… “Pen 15” seamed harmless enough, but as the entire class began to collectively giggle and guffaw, I suddenly realized my mistake. Add a “dotted” hat to the top of that “one” and you’ve got… well… a pretty good joke. Well played, Mr. Spang!
The only reason I mention this is because the kids got me good this week, and I didn’t even see it coming. It all started with a plant I was given for my birthday… a little bamboo plant I keep on my desk that I wanted to give a Chinese name. Now the Taiwanese are terrible at naming things… they get a dog and think, “Hmmmm…. I will call him… dog,” or that get a black dog and think, “Hmmmm… I will call him… black dog.” So I wasn’t holding my breath… but that morning the kids came into class furious and upset and explained to me that their teacher had just harshly criticized them for not passing a crucial test. She is "Turtle Fur" they said. (龟皮)
Now, I’ve learned some pretty good Chinese from my students… words like “motorcycle” or (机车) to describe an annoying teacher who blathers on and on (no, they are not talking about me!)… or “White Wood” (白木) which describes somebody who is so stupefied that their eyes are like white wood… but I’d never heard of “Turtle Fur” before… so I thought, okay, that’s cool, let’s call the plant “Turtle Fur” in honor of NOT being harshly criticized.
Oh yeah… come to find out that Turtle Fur means… well… another kind of fuzzy stuff around the shell. Hahaha… you got me… AND yes… I am now looking for a new name for my pant. Perhaps I should just call him… Bamboo. (竹)

1 comment:

  1. Brian,

    Turtle Fur should be called 龜毛 (qui mao)
    Chinese is difficult somehow..