Author - Nina Cordoba
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8/11/2011 12:21:42 PM

The Legs of God?

Since Abbie in Don't Make Me Make You Brownies takes over her sister's volunteer job as an English as a Second Language teacher while she housesits for her, I thought I'd tell you one of my favorite funny stories from when I taught adult ESL at the community college.

My classes were a little different than Abbie's because mine were full of people from all over the world, rather than only Spanish-speaking students, although I could count on my Latinos to volunteer from the first day and help me set the interactive mood I needed for the Speaking and Listening classes.

Over the years, I taught all different levels, but upper level students were the most fun because they spoke enough English so that I could learn all kinds of interesting things about their cultures and countries.

One day, my students were giving oral presentations. The assignment was, "If we were going, as tourists, to the city you're from, how would we get there? Where would we stay? What would we see or do while there?"

Most of the Latin American and Asian students came from large cities. They told us we could fly to their cities, stay in beautiful hotels, and see all kinds of cultural and historical places. My French (science teacher) student was from a beach resort town in France. His description made me want to throw on a bikini and hitch a ride with his family on their next visit home.

One of the last students to speak was a Pakistani named Iridi. We had already learned that he was very un-worldly for a young man in his 20's. He was easily embarrassed and somewhat gullible. That day, we learned why.

Now, this was quite a few years ago, so some of the details are sketchy, but the way I remember it, he told us to get to his home town, we would first have to fly to Frankfurt, Germany. Then we'd take another flight (or two?) until we ended up in Pakistan. Then we would have to take a couple of forms of public trasportation to get as close to his village as possible. Finally, we would need to walk or take a donkey up the mountain to get to the top where his village was because there were no roads. There were also no hotels (and no electricity), but he assured us that we could stay at any home in the village because they welcomed visitors with open arms.

The other students were surprised at how remote a place he'd come from. They had all kinds of questions for him, and he was happy to answer. That's when we learned that the women in his village all dressed in traditional Islamic garb and he'd never seen a woman's legs in real life until he got off a plane in the Frankfurt airport. He said it was quite a shock to see all those women walking around in shorts.

Being the "feeler" that I am, I was curious about the emotions he experienced at that moment. Was he offended? Upset because of his religious teachings?

So I had to ask, "Iridi, how did you feel when you saw a woman's legs for the very first time?"

He looked at me with with his typical sincere expression. "I thought..." He suddenly threw his hands up in the air. "There IS a God!!!"

The class roared with laughter. In fact, we had a lot of fun personalities in that class, so Iridi had just invented their new catch phrase for them. After that, any time they could work it into a conversation, someone would cry out, "There IS a God!" and the whole class would dissolve into laughter, including Iridi and me.

And, no, teaching ESL never got me arrested like it does Abbie in Don't Make Me Make You Brownies, but the fun, frustration, and interesting cultural tidbits I learned did inspire parts of both "Brownies" and Not Dreaming of You.

posted by Nina 12 Comments