03 November, 2012

My Own Hyperbole and a Half

This week, in my writing classes, I did a lesson on hyperbole. I discussed with my students the cultural trend in American English to be hyperbolic. They didn’t know the word, but when I wrote “hyperbole” on the board, they were familiar with it (I’m perpetually grateful at the level of my students English; the average PCV doesn’t teach students at this advanced of an ability).

I had them think about the way I speak when I teach class. I asked them how often I use exaggerated adjectives and adverbs. I watched them all grin, because I do it often. Some of them even started muttering certain words I use the most, like “awesome” and “magnificent”.

At this point, the teacher in me is pleased. My students are understanding what I am saying, and are on board for where ever I want to go next. It is times like these that I love being a teacher.

 So I ask them a question: Can you think of any other examples of when your favourite waiguoren teacher is hyperbolic? Silence. I let them think… Then one of my braver students raises her hand. I call on her, and she stands (I dislike it when my students stand up like that, but it’s a habit I cannot seem to break, so I pick my battles and instead get them to stop saying “in a word”).

“You say the word love a lot”, she says. Most of them giggle at this. Bingo! (It is beautiful when a plan comes together. I didn’t even have to ask any leading questions to get them where I needed them.)

“Do I??” I ask, obviously feigning cluelessness, to which more laugh and shout, “yes”, at me.

To reinforce the idea and make sure everyone is on the same page, I ask them to define love. After a couple students volunteer their own definitions, I ask what their dictionaries say.

My students' dictionaries
don't look like my Mac, but
I don't have photos of their

After a student reads the definition aloud, I ask them if when I say, “I love Chinese food”, I actually have an intense deep affection for it. This question gets a pretty uproarious laugh from the class—after a year in China, I’ve become quite good at using humour in the classroom—followed by a couple (what I judged to be jocular) indignant looks.

“I like Chinese food; I think it is 很好吃 (henhao chi, literally: very good to eat), but do I really love it? No.”

My students laughed and nodded. They understood. They know being hyperbolic is something I do often—dare I say all the time. Heck, when I ask my students to do something, I tell them if they do it, I will love them forever. I don’t know why I do it. My only insight is what I started this anecdote with: it is something my generation, and my culture, does incessantly (I’d also be willing to bet the habit is perpetuated by internet culture).

Should-be poets laureate of my generation, the always effervescent 3OH!3, once rapped, “L. O. V. E. is just another word I never learned to pronounce”. I, on the other hand, not only know how to pronounce the word, but I insist on proving it to everyone on a daily basis. Love is a word I throw around. Always have. It’s probably a bad habit. I should stop.

But in the meantime, this week’s BlogThings topic is supposed to be about love. I will say that since embarking on my chinadventures, love is one emotion I have lacked. What kind of love is probably up for interpretation, but any way you slice it, I do not have a lot of it.

I still love what I do, and no one can take that from me. But I never realized until I left just how much I was leaving behind. I’ve discussed this before (ironically enough, in the only other post where I use a screen cap of my dictionary), but in thinking about this topic, it is that feeling of love that I miss.

Don’t get me wrong, during my service I have met some pretty amazing people, but love takes time. Even though I have grown incredibly close to many people, it is hard to say I love someone I only met a year ago.

Take right now, for example. As I write this, I am sitting in my flat alone. I have been sitting here for almost an entire day, just sitting in front of my little electric heater (the radiator’s not on yet and it’s below freezing outside). I have stacks of midterms to grade on my coffee table, and yet between writing paragraphs for this blog, I have been watching episodes of this sitcom the internet told me was funny, shame-eating candy from a recent care package. And the worst part? I’m wearing two different shades of navy blue at the same time…
Also, guys. This is the most
recent photo of the three of us.
We need to fix this

But I don’t want to end this post on such an angsty note; this isn’t my old Xanga (too bad I don’t have a link to that!). The other challenge of this post was to let people know I love them. People know. There are people that I am in constant email contact with. If people want more love from me, all they have to do is write me an email. I’m great at writing lengthy responses (true fact: I’m developing a reputation even among PCVs for over-writing emails). Also, I should mention that I love anyone taking the time to read this. My blog has gotten more hits last month than ever before. I try to use little things like that as a reminder I’m loved.

Required listening: “Elephant Love Medley” from Moulin Rouge (blame my high school sweetheart for my un-ironic fondness of this song).

Next week, my assignment is to write about something (little known) I am passionate about. The goal here is to inform people about something you think is just pretty rad that is unnoticed or under-appreciated.