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Brown Versus Blue Passports

New intermediate English student at my class last night: Bilal.

Bilal is a Jordanian with that same innate, cat-like arrogance shared by practically every Israeli man I’ve ever met.

That has to make you wonder what the point of national boundaries and religious affiliations are. Okay! So Bilal’s passport is brown, not blue. And he prefers keeping halal to keeping kosher.

But what the hell are the real differences here?

Bilal is very smart, and he’s the first student I’ve had who was not immediately charmed by me, which naturally made me dislike him.

He was trying out the class.

“So! Do you think you want to continue with this class?” I asked him chirpily at 8 o’clock.

He regarded me blandly and made a mezzo-mezzo gesture with his hand.

So I trotted him over to the advanced class, which is taught by a kindly white-haired lesbian who frequently goes on rants denouncing the American patriarchy. Her students are all industrious Asians who don’t have the slightest interest in standing up to the American patriarchy. I can’t imagine how they’re going to work vocabulary words like neoliberalism into their everyday lives.

He’ll be back, I thought.

Or he won’t.

Actually, if he weren’t so arrogant, he’d realized I’m the perfect teacher for him because for two hours I kept telling him, Put away your smartphone!

He was doing that thing that all really smart people do when they’re learning languages, which is to look up unfamiliar words on their smartphone dictionaries.

I think that may work for reading assignments, but it doesn’t work for conversation.

The only way you’re going to get fluent conversationally is to understand, Yes, yes, I’m going to look very stupid for a while here. And then forge ahead trying to get meaning from context, making hideous gaffes in the process.

Yeah, yeah, children’s brain centers are better wired for the acquisition of languages. But the other reason children are better at learning languages is that they don’t really care if they make mistakes. The First Commandment of Adulthood – Thou shalt save face at all costs – has not yet become the Prime Directive.

Bilal really needs a teacher who can help him be okay with feeling stupid.


Sad news, too: Summer is going back to China at the end of September. I have not seen her a great deal since she and Chris relocated to the Big City, but even so: I’ll miss her a lot.

On the plus side, should I decide to travel to China, I will have a free deluxe vacation all lined up! Summer is eager to start planning my trip!


Also, when I woke up this morning, I felt perfectly fine.

The psychological equivalent to popping my ears. Or something.

Nothing has changed. I mean, yes – I had a longish conversation with B plus several other pleasant social interactions.

But I was always going to have a longish conversation with B, and I’m always going to have pleasant social interactions.

On a superficial level, at least, I’m pretty charming. People like interacting with me. I add value.

It’s those abandonment issues.

I’ve examined every subterranean fissure in my psychological foundations; I know exactly where the cracks are and why they’re there. But I don’t have a clue how to make those foundations stronger. And part of it is this almost humorous narcissim: I am the most singularly repulsive human being on the planet. Of course I’m abandonable!

Brain chemistry, I tell myself whenever I’m feeling down. It’s just brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are like any other psychoactive drug.

And then I make my bed. And exercise.

This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org/696953.html. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 31st, 2017 12:57 am (UTC)
I like reading about what you call psychological depression. I call it not being fit for human consumption. Maybe it's the same thing. For me it's a terrible place to be and a relief when it's over. Seems like maybe it just has to run it's course. Glad you have put this latest bout of it behind you.
Aug. 31st, 2017 11:07 am (UTC)
not being fit for human consumption

Sounds like the same thing, yes. :-)

It is quite awful while it's happening.
Aug. 31st, 2017 04:38 am (UTC)
I expected Summer to find a way to stay in the US
Aug. 31st, 2017 11:05 am (UTC)
Well, I know she really wanted to. Her husband couldn't find a job - that's part of it. I'll be spending tomorrow with her so I'll know more then. At this point, I don't even know whether she took the USMLE. Maybe she did and got such a low score that she wouldn't be allowed to take it again.
Aug. 31st, 2017 07:46 am (UTC)
I'm sorry I'm not current...

I've given up on learning any but the most rudimentary Japanese. I even have the rosetta stone for it on my computer and everything. I just can't cram new shit into my brain anymore. On the rare occasion that I might actually go out? I'm most likely to start talking in pidgin Swahili than Japanese. I really did give a third-hearted effort into it at first. When we are in Okinawa, I like to get back to the ship at 0500, get dressed, and then go back to sleep in my rack until 0755. My favorite security guard works the 12-8 and we often talk when I come up the ramp. He likes to tell me how much "I pray for you, sir!" I don't know to which gods he's praying, though I'm really curious as his "extra prayer, for you, Sir!" obviously is not working, at all... Anyway, so I was talking to my favorite security guard one morning and I asked him to teach me how to say something like "you are very beautiful" or "more whiskey, please" or some such. I'd be repeating what he was saying exactly to my ear, but he kept telling me that I was saying something completely different from what we were working on. One of my shipmates who also comes in early walked over to us and was watching me with a smirk. I really like this dude, but he intimidates the fuck out of me. Anyway, after smirking at me for a few minutes he said: "Max, are you tone-deaf by any chance?" [which I so completely am] "Japanese is a tonal language. Even I can hear what you're doing wrong, and I'm kinda tone deaf myself..."

Aug. 31st, 2017 11:08 am (UTC)
Are you tone-deaf? :-)

Sounds like the shipmate who claims to be tone-deaf isn't tone-deaf. :-)

(Nice to see you here.)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )