Sunday, May 16, 2010

Laugh it off.

Being a foreign English teacher in China, you find yourself oft the reciprocate of many requests for large favors. One of my boldest friends is a one of a kind young Chinese girl with excellent talent in getting exactly what she wants from me.  These talents include, dragging me unwillingly into singing competitions, having me edit her major English papers at the drop of a dime, having me listen to English speeches she needs to present, and dominating every conversation topic at our nightly studies of the Good Book as a means to improving her English. 

This, as you can imagine is a bit much to handle at times.  But there's also something endearing about this student.  What you see, is what you get.  And I find candidness refreshing.  I must admit, however, I tend to spend time with her in small doses--this is with both of our best intentions in mind, of course.

Tonight as we gathered for our Sunday night study, I was feeling positive and more than eager to jump into the reading (written by our friend John.)  As we began to read, however, this special friend of mine would have something to say on each topic.  I'm sorry, did I say on topic?  I mean, she would have something to say having nothing remotely to do with the topic.

This is pretty common, so it didn't come as a surprise, but she was in rare form on this particular evening.  We were not getting anywhere.  Katie and I subtly steered the group's attention back on topic every so often, determined to make some progress.  Soon, however our friend had plunged into a 10-minute story about some random student and his emotional issues.  How this came up no one knows.  I'm not the only one to notice.  Several of the boys in the group seem to be tuning her out, Katie at least pretends to listen to her with a pained expression as I grind my teeth and avoid eye contact, so she won't direct her conversation towards me.  Just when we think she's done, she remembers something she hasn't mentioned, and is asking Katie's advice regarding some minute situation.

I look around the room at the vacant expressions of people who have deemed it a lost cause and clench my fists, and dig them into my temples, contemplating bashing my brains in. Instead, I opt for silently praying for patience.  Now, with a less angry mindset, I attempt to maturely direct my attention to the speaker, but I can't help but notice her theatrical tone as she jumps from one topic to another in her monologue, waving her hands around to an audience sleeping with their eyes open. And suddenly I feel something rising in my throat.  It's a giggle.  I manage to clap my hand over my face in time, so no one notices.  But then I can't stop.  The giggling has just begun, and with all my might I can't make it stop.

Just as I begin to gain control of myself, though, Katie glimpses my expression and looks away quickly.  Katie's mouth begins to twitch as our friend's voice continues to rise and fall as the monologue continues, and Katie bubbles over in laughter.  This spurs me on and soon I've released the snort.  Soon, all of the boys in our group are awake and laughing with us, and our friend sits in utterly silent befuddlement. 

After a moment, we manage to settle down and Katie apologizes for the disruption simply with a "Sorry, we're a little crazy tonight," and then I steal a glance at Katie and we almost lose control once more. Fortunately, and quite miraculously, our friend is quite oblivious to the reason for our amusement, making some lighthearted comment about our silly antics, and we continue on with our study, Katie and I dutifully avoiding eye contact.

We need a vacation.

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