World culture: what’s up with that? My students certainly wonder this from time to time, as I storm about the halls, as they see foreign people and lands on their televisions and ponder as to what they might do with themselves. What bizarre, quivering, gelatinous delights they might suck down into their mouths (if they even have mouths, because, I mean, who knows)? What strange, guttural base noises might issue forth from their vocal cords with which they might communicate? What obscene, confusing, alien activities might they engage in for “fun”? Well, gather your sun hat, your SLR, and maybe a can of mace to keep the weirdoes at bay: we’re going on a safari to find out!
Our last excursion saw the exploration of birthday food, cow noises, and the inscrutable differences between snow-people of the world. What brave new ventures of culture and knowledge shall we broach this year? How will our nebbish safarier, who casts a very Harry Potter-esque figure, fare in the dark, harsh world? Will he be eaten alive? One can only hope.
Horrifically, the world didn’t just stop after installing two languages. After Korean and the wacky outlander garble-speak called English, it just kept producing more and more tongues, and people talk them all the time. Even worse, they speak them on the phone! They might even say it to you. Learn to say hello as is appropriate in their nation, and then maybe keep saying it until they hang up.
People in the world find all sorts of places to fall asleep, be it on the lawn, or on the subway, or all over your spaghetti. But typically they fall asleep in their homes, which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and, according to this safari-boy, always in breath-taking vistas of sky and earth, where there is basically just you, your tent, and the horizon. I once showed my students a picture of the modest house I grew up in, to constant and unearned screams of appreciation, and also untoward shiftiness about my presumed riches and how I might be convinced to begin sharing them. Most were just impressed to see so many people living on the ground floor.
Politeness comes in many forms, and one of them is asking before you barge about. My kids, already fundamentally accustomed to the right to barge, will surely find this video an affront to their agency as people, and their freedom as world citizens.
As most of my students live in an enormous series of apartment complexes directly adjacent to our school, I can imagine some degree of confusion. The idea of waking up extra early so that you can be shuttled into a cramped mass-transit vehicle to where you will do your daily work is something for old people, not for children! Luckily, foreign kids at their school make up for this by doing nothing but paint all day.
Very different animals around the world get called foxes, and adapt to their environment by evolving different coats, head-shapes, and levels of camouflage. But they can’t evolve away from the cuteness gene.
And while we’re on the subject of animals, which our safarier must know well, here is the reported best zoo in the world, in the Bronx, New York. Look at its many buildings! Look at its wide, expansive simulated biomes! Bring your students for a field-trip! Unfortunately, due to a renegade medusa, most of the animals, especially the rhinos, are now made of stone. But that hasn’t stopped the majesty.
As most of the streets in my neighbourhood literally just had street names installed a few months ago (previously, receiving directions went like this: “Go to that thing near the place where you can get really good duck, and then maybe walk down that weird alley with the massage place in the basement, and then up the street with FOUR, not THREE, norae-bangs”), this one is a big deal. That I need to communicate that most streets are numbers or tree names is slightly more problematic. What a lovely city to live in where all the streets were named after natural phenomena, but by the time you get through all the tree names but not all the streets to be named, suddenly you have to live on Rape Flower Blvd., and then things are much less charming.
Here we come to world street food, and also a very viable life skill. When travelling, one of the easiest ways to get food without knowing the local language is to buy it from whatever broken crone or ragged, toothless vagrant is churning or grilling or squeezing on the side of the road. You don’t need to know the language, or the method, or the culture: you just gesture that you want one of whatever it is they produce, continue nodding until they hand it to you, and then stuff it directly into your face. Survival!
Also this is the chapter where I get to explain the who and why and what of poutine, which is just a good reason to wake up in the morning.
In France, where people just sort of naturally accrue valuable antiques and WWII-era relics like so much dead skin, people must haul all of their regal pieces of crap into giant ballrooms where they might be assessed by aged fuddy-duddies who assess things as a sort of habit. In Britain, there are great outdoor markets for junk and also British paraphernalia, embossed with the Union Jack and also maybe purchasable from a man in a very tall black hat. But in America and Canada, people just dump their crap on the front lawn and call it a day, letting their neighbours, strangers, and the whole world browse through their junk. Why, sometimes they don’t even bother to fill the garage, rather they just pop the trunk and ask for money.
Though of course, sometimes these sales are for a good cause:
Y’all better make it to the Slam Dance, is all I’m saying.
What have my open-skulled little wanderlusters gained from this, our third journey into the world beyond? I imagine them living abroad to study English somewhere. They are scared and confused and think that they will get lost, but they spent maybe the entire night on Wikipedia, memorizing the names of every species of tree, just so that the maps will make sense. They want to know the way to school, given that school is about thirty minutes away by car, and the only way to get there is by giant yellow prison-truck filled to the brim with other children. They will emerge from whatever strange and amazing domicile they live in, and hope to encounter strange new animals, ones vaguely resembling those they can see at home, but all different and weird and warped by foreignness and a different climate. They are scared, but they know all will be well as long as they hold onto two things: they know how to order poutine, and they know the time and location of the Slam Dance.
They’re going to be okay.