Ambrosia Salad

Incident at work tonight: I was teaching a writing class and we’re doing descriptive writing. Now, I’ve seen the materials at the level of ESL these girls are doing, and, quite franky, it’s bollocks. They don’t have any sophistocated adjectives yet, and getting them to make their own is like pulling teeth.

Solution: I bring in some of my personal photographs. I don’t tell the kids who these people are, but they have to describe the scene, in the context of what they think is happening, and then relate what happened to the ‘characters’ the day the picture was taken. It sounds ambitious, I know, but it captures their imaginations far better than “Describe your bedroom” does. Especially since they’ve all done that about three times before they’ve even been in Canada a year.

So student N hands in her draft, about a photo I took more than a decade ago, of Jenny, Pia and Mac sitting in Jenny’s backyard, drinking and talking.

N has turned Jenny into her Protagonist, and Jenny has (allegedly) decided to have a picnic with her friends. Jenny goes to Safeway (in the draft) and comes home with Chicken Caesar salad, English Muffins, Snapple, and Ambrosia Salad.

“Ambrosia salad?” I look at N.
“Yeah, you know, it has the marshmallows in it.”
I giggle, because I can’t help it. “Ambrosia salad is disgusting.” I think for a minute. “Um, N, is it…White People food?”
She giggles a little as well. “Koreans don’t eat it.”
(Of course not, I think. Marshmallows in Jello, with, oh, say, celery and maraschino cherries? I don’t think so.)
“N, Ambrosia salad is, like, Old People food. Have you ever seen anyone under the age of fifty buying it?”
“My ESL Teacher says it’s delicious,” She protests. Her turn to think. “But she’s about sixty.”
“See?”

The problem is that White People Food (they call it Canadian Food) is largely a mystery to your average Korean International student. And their moms, actually. They know there’s stuff that goes on bread, and stuff that goes in sandwiches. This means that, for politeness’ sake, I have eaten a butter-and-mayo baguette, a cinnamon-raisin breakfast bagel (egg and cheese within), and a peanut butter, lettuce, and ham sandwich. Bleurgh. But what am I supposed to say? “You’re learning my culinary culture wrong.”? How could I?

No one’s served me Ambrosia Salad. Yet.

I’m an Adult.

I called COIT carpet cleaners.

My thought process was something like this:

April: Hmm, I need to get one of those machines you can get at Safeway. That’s, what, sixty bucks? I need to clean these carpets. It’ll only take about four hours to do it right.

May: Ew, these carpets are gross if looked at in strong light. But first, I need to pay my Student Loans. Oh, Hell, I forgot to buy groceries. OK, maybe later.

June: I’ll do it as soon as I have extra money and time.

July: I’ll do it as soon as I have extra money.

August: This is disgusting. I’ll do it in September, when I can budget for it.

September: with a >whoosh< soundtrack I don’t have time!

October: I’m tirty-three fricking years old. I can hire some professionals to come in. (calls COIT) The guy comes within the hour to tell me how much, and what they’d like to do.

Me: (Opens door) Sorry about the mess.

COIT Guy: It’s nothing. (Lots of spiel about how professional services remove, like 90% of the crap in the carpets, blah, blah.) I realize how good this sounds and make a mental note to get out and have more fun. Then: “Do you have any areas where there were Incidents?”

Me: Uhm…(pointing to coin-sized areas on the floor) Here’s a spaghetti sauce Incident. Here was a red wine Incident. This is an Incident that involved soy sauce and a sudden cat on the lap. (Belatedly, I wonder if he means, like, incident incidents, you know, like a Frat Boy vomited 3 litres of stomach acids and beer on my floor. But COIT guy seems happy with my explanantion.)

CG: How did you find out about us?

Me: Well, my dad was getting his carpets done, so he gave me the number. But a long time ago, when I was working at a marine fuel station, I served the boss of the company when he was out on a boating holiday. We got to talking, ‘cause I told him I’d seen vans that said COIT on them around Vancouver. So you’re the guys I know for this kind of thing. (I am such a nerd!)

CG: Then you know it’s a local company.

He mentions that they’d do the bedroom for free. It doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, but what the hell, I’ll say yes.

I ask how long it will take.

Coit Guy: (appraisingly) About an hour.

SOLD!

Bottom line: I’ve arrived. People will come to my house early in November, for about an hour. My carpets will be the spotless light Oatmeal colour I can kind of remember.

Now, I’m going to go have some Metamucil and castigate hooligans in the spirit of my new adulthood.

I love Dolly Parton.

http://www.comedycentral.com/sitewide/media_player/play.jhtml?itemId=24026

Cut and paste, I’m too lazy to link.

Go there. Check her out. Who cares about the boobs. (Although they’re still arresting.) She has the biggest heart.

Shout out…

To teachers on strike. I’m a teacher as well, and I opted out of teaching in the public sphere.

There was too much babysitting, and I didn’t get a teaching certificate to babysit or listen to people who told me that what I was teaching their kids was ‘wrong’. I didn’t go to school to diffuse knife fights or testify in the Pricipal’s office that so-and-so threatened so-and-so. Or have my testimony disregarded by admin in favour of giving Little Gino another chance. Little Gino doesn’t need another chance, Little Gino needs a term in juvie, or maybe some responsible parenting in the first fucking place. And I can’t give that.

There was too little respect, even though I honestly believe that teaching students to be literate, discerning, critically thinking people will make the world a better place. Instead, I was asked to ‘go over the basics again’. For the ones who weren’t listening the first three times I reviewed. For the ESL kids, I gave them as much attention as possible, and some helpful hints for their tutors, when it came time for help from that front. I wish I could have done more.

There was no free time. I was marking. And I know it gets easier as you get older, but even my mentor was putting in a good 10 hours per week, because she wanted kids to be good writers. Kids only get to be good by writing. For high school teachers, that means, if you’re assigning one assignment per kid per week, you’re grading 200 papers a week. With comments. And suggestions. It adds up.

These days, I teach one-on-one, or, at most, 3-on-1. Results abound. Pronoun disagreement melts away when a student has a private teacher who is totally focussed on his work. Adjective choice gets better. All of a sudden, I’m a teacher saying, “Harriet, you can’t use ‘concupiscent’ here, it looks strange because of the context. Let’s see what else we could use,” as opposed to, “I’m not marking this. You lifted it directly from Pinkmunky.com, and I read it on the site last night.”

So, teachers: I’m earning a reasonable wage in the private sector. If you need me to pay your phone bill, call me, because, trust me, I know you’ll want to do some venting.

Shout out…

To the vastly irritated woman at the 41st and Oak bus stop who told me her woes on Sunday:

I hope you got your job issues resolved. There’s no reason you had to wait in the pouring rain while the guy with the keys was late to work. You were right to write a note to the boss.

Look for another job immediately. You deserve respect and should be able to voice an opinion like ‘It tastes salty’ without being ostracized by your fellow workers.

Peace out, sister.

Factoids

I’ve just had a look in the latest Macleans. Did you know crows and ravens, aka corvids, mate for life? And cheat on their partners? Neither did I!

Cool word fact: We get the word “ravenous’ from ravens. Corvids will eat anything, including (I am not making this up) human vomit and otter feces.

Ew. Happy meal, anyone?

Surprise!

Wow! Em and Gen and Arwen threw me a surprise B-day party last night, and, yes, I was surprised. By all accounts, I did not look happy, but, rather, appalled. I’d like to state for the record that I did not feel appalled as much as I was simply shocked. I went over to Arwen’s and John’s to (I thought) babysit Rip. And, yes, instead of having an evening away from her preschooler, Arwen was co-masterminding a party! For me! The mind boggles.

Lots of times I don’t feel like I make a big contribution to the group. Mostly because it’s hard to get a word in edgewise sometimes, but also because I’m blessed with friends who are intelligent, savvy, and witty as much as they are passionate. I feel my moderate stance on things (I’m a Libra, remember?) means that I’m not as dreamy as the Aquarian, as flamboyant and reasoned as the Leo, or as good at vamping as the Gemini. If we were a meal, I’d be the bread. Dependable, yes. But not exciting.

But as Em said, a lot of what is contributed is the whine factor. I don’t, much. I know I make them laugh, and that’s ok. And sometimes it’s nice to be appreciated, even if I’m pretty sure I’m a blue-stamped wierdo, right through the core of my being.

So, although I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone else (I taught CAPP, you’d think I’d know this stuff), sometimes it’s nice to get external validation.

Thanks, guys, I love you.

Fright Night!

Hello, mine-and Kelly’s joint Birthday jaunt! We decided to go to Playland’s Halllowe’en fiesta, where they bring out the Haunted Houses and there are live guys in robes and werewolf masks scaring little girls on the midway. (Fun to watch-they explode out from their little circle like TNA-clad, shrieking popcorn. So cute!)

It was damned fun! Okay, so it was pouring with rain, but Em brought dollar-store rain jackets for us ladies, who got over the geeky factor enough to put them on and stay sort of dry. Kel and I only did up the neck snap though, in the interest of billowing a bit. Yeah, kind of like superheroes. Damp superheroes.

We lined up for one of the Haunted Houses, and went through. It was really fun, and not scary at all! We went faster than we thought we would. I later found out that this was because Kelly had wrapped her arms around Curtis’s waist and was propelling him bodily forward, whilst emitting a sort of intermittent squeak. I didn’t have time to be scared, and also, I was with E, who is apparently too big to scare, according to the Simulated Ghoul Union. Someone jumped out at us kind of half-heartedly, but E bellowed back, and that was the end of that.

We went on the Crazy Beach Party, which I had been assured by one of my students, was the best fun ever. He’s eight, so I was rather shocked when I saw this giant, oscillating, swinging thing. But I was persuaded to go. Only E was too tall to go on (WTF?) and so instead of the soothing presence of my man beside me, I had the distinct impression of wind whistling through a desolate crack in the press of bodies as the machine hurled us around. It wasn’t that scary with my eyes closed. I thought of how sailors in a storm get pitched around, and their ship wasn’t checked daily to make sure it was safe, and they might die and their bodies never be found, and I felt much better.

E and I went through the Haunted Maze, which my hairdresser had warned me was actually pretty scary. She’d heard about it on the radio. Not scary with E, can I just say. We actually watched one gaggle of teenage girls get freaked out by a guy in a mask. One got so worked up, she ran at him, shrieking, and he was forced to retreat. The first guy who surprised us, E Booed right back. No one surprised us after that. It was like something went up on the Simulated Ghoul Telegraph or something. I think the scariest thing was when we encountered a group of 14-year-olds smoking pot in the middle of the maze. I always worry when I see young kids smoking pot. I only hope they didn’t buy it from someone who laced it with something.

The Coaster lineup was way too long, so onto the bus with fellow wet Fright Nighters, and now home safe, with wet clothes in the laundry and a glass of wine in hand.

Dear Telus Mobility,

You’ve blown it. We are so over.

Oh, in the heady heyday, things were fine. Great even. So what if I got a message a day late and drove over to a student’s house who wasn’t there? So what if you occasionally decided my call had to end before I’d finished talking? We had chemistry, Telus. I was there for you.

But over the past year, you’ve changed. First there was the thing where you didn’t get my address on Eugene’s cell phone right—for three months! Yeah, that was pretty crappy. Then, when he tried and tried to pay the bill, you wouldn’t acknowledge it, and thus stranded a boy who was eight thousand miles from home with no way of communicating to his family. That’s cold, baby.

Then, in February, when I had called to sort things out at least twice a month since September, you inexplicably sent me a plush stuffed chameleon and a laser-printed letter telling me you valued my time. Did you really value my time? I didn’t notice it, because the next month, the same problems happened. Then..um, was it June? When you swapped my number for Eugene’s? That didn’t show caring, Telus. That was either your capricious sense of humour, or maybe just ignorant fuckwattage. I don’t know.

After I’d sold Eugene’s phone, what was with giving me the bill from the previous month, and telling me you were going to cut off service? I paid the bill, and the woman who bought the phone watched me. I was wise to your lies by then, Telus.

And today, I check my messages coming home from work, and I get a text message, saying that you’re giving me unlimited local calling for my birthday? You said, right in the message, that October 11 was my birthday. Yes, it was. Yesterday! How shall I get that lovely, lovely perk, Telus? Have you invented a time machine that I might travel back to 24 hours ago and merrily call all my pals and chat for hours, basking in my knowledge that my Birthday calls were free?

The bottom line is: You forgot my birthday, you ill-gotten, badly-run, outsourced company. That equals me dumping your sorry ass.

And if you send me another plush toy to try to woo me back, I am filling it with rotting meat and sending it back.

So this is it, Telus Mobility.

It’s not me, it’s you.

I’m going for it!

I’ve decided to do it again. This is the only thing I’ve found in almost twenty years of searching that combats the November Blahs: NaNoWriMo. It’s National Novel Writing Month! I won’t have time to be depressed. I’ll be too psyched into getting my wordcount up.

That’s right, folks, during the month of November, I will be writing a novel. If successful, my novel will be at least 50,000 words. I am heartened by the Nano motto: It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be 50,000 words. No problem. I just don’t know what it’s going to be about. Or who the characters will be. Or when or where it’s going to be set. My favoured genre is Regency-era romance, but I was thinking about going contemporary. I was also thinking about less romance and more adventure. Maybe a quest.

Much as I’d love to write in the quirky, irreverent style of my new, favourite romance writer, Katie McAllister, or my enduring intellectual crush, William Gibson (Who opened Neuromancer with, “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel”, and who has me weeping often at the beauty of his prose,) I suspect I’ll be nano-ing this year solely to explore my own voice.

I’m a bit of a writing chameleon, you see. Or maybe I can just see too many points-of-view at the same time. Whatever the case, I need to develop something that is my own. I just hope that finding my own voice, I still like to read what I write. Jack Hodgins, who lectures at UVic, and who captures the many moods of the Comox Valley and Upper Vancouver Island with sparse precision and wry humour, doesn’t always love his own stuff. He has to forget about it in a drawer for a while before he goes back to edit it. Me, I know I’m sensitive enough to my own opinion to know that I’d want to at least trust it was good enough to have a second look at.

Hmm. Off to the bath for some plotting, character-creation, and wine drinking.

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