Friday, April 3, 2009

What if I were a clove of garlic?

"English Corner" is very popular in China. This is an event in which English-speaking foreigners are enticed to come and chat with native Chinese who are trying to learn the language. Some are very new to English, while one or two are masterful speakers who want to keep it up with regular practice. The majority are at low-to-middle fluency. The enticement offered to foreigners may be a free cup of coffee (as at Amici) and the chance to meet other foreigners. Or, if it's being held at the university where you teach, the enticement may be Enduring Gratitude from your students. Not surprisingly, the former is a lot more popular.

My god-awful Friday teaching schedule (last class ends at 8:30 PM!) means I can only get to Amici for the final hour of their weekly English Corner, but I go anyway. I've met some very nice people there, and the coffee's good. Plus, the little kids who hang out there are adorable!

The first two times I went, it was pleasantly sparse. Each week, however, it has been more crowded, until tonight I walked into this mob:

The picture doesn't really do it justice, because I could only get wide enough to catch about a third of the crowd. It was so crowded, I wasn't even able to get that free cup of coffee before they closed. I'll get over it.

Here are a couple of the kids I enjoy talking to. I hadn't met the boy before, but the girl is a regular. Both of them speak English without accents, and with only a little less-developed grammar and vocabulary than American kids of their age.

Tonight, she had brought a goofy, form-fitting paper hat that she thought made the wearer look like a clove of garlic. 

Her mission was to get as many people to wear it as possible. Here is one of the waitresses looking like a clove of garlic.

And of course, your faithful correspondent was talked into wearing it, too:

Actually, wearing that wine-colored shirt, it makes me look less like a clove of garlic than a bottle of zinfandel.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, the hat looks pretty good on you. It looks like you should be in a children's book that takes place in some completely different world where everyone wears such hats. Wait, you ARE in a different world and I bet they all DO wear such hats!

    As Will Ferrell playing Harry Caray might ask, "If you were a clove of garlic, would you eat yourself?"