Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sex and the Teachers’ Lounge

The Polish teachers’ lounge in my experience is a very relaxing place especially if you don’t speak Polish. I mean it becomes a relaxing place if you can get over the fact that everyone around you is speaking a language that you don’t understand and some vital information could be passed on, with you none the wiser. Vital information being that the bathroom on the ground floor is out of order and shouldn’t be used or perhaps that November 1st is a national holiday and there will be no classes that day. Purely hypothetical examples of course ;)

When you don’t understand a language you often get the feeling that people around you are arguing - that every raised voice, every gesture is a sign of rage waiting to explode. Except in the teachers’ lounge of my Polish school where you couldn’t get a rise out of anybody for any reason except maybe if the coffee had run out.

I usually never asked what the teachers were talking about. Not that I didn’t care, but usually as soon as they noticed that the conversation was being delivered to me in English, they just stopped talking. Not that the conversations were anything out of the ordinary. I guess they were just self-conscious. So everyday I sat in the teachers’ lounge preparing my lessons without anyone bothering me (teachers out there, be jealous!) with the soothing sound of the Polish language buzzing around me.

Until one particular day, I noticed that the teachers were involved in an especially heated discussion. After a few moments of observation, curiosity got the better of me, and I asked another English teacher what everyone was talking about.

“Sex,” she replied pretty matter-of-factly.

“Sex?” I asked, pretty darned surprised. I mean there’s a crucifix hanging in the lounge.

“Yes, sex,” she answered again.

What had I been missing all these days gone by when I didn’t understand what the teachers had been talking about. Had they been discussing hot taboo topics, - these ordinary looking high school teachers? Had I underestimated them or even “misunderestimated” them as George W. Bush so famously flubbed?

“Even the priest?” I inquired.

“Especially the priest!” she enthusiastically announced.

Mmmmm, the hot priest and a debate about sex. I wondered what side of the argument he was on. Pro-sex? Anti-sex? Wait a minute. What were they talking about exactly?

“About sex? The priest? Really?” I asked for the last time.

“Yes,” replied the exasperated English teacher. “It’s a very important topic for the Catholic church. You have sex in America, don’t you?” she asked.

What a personal question! It’s not like, hey, you have pierogi in America, don’t you. It was sex. A timeless universal. I replied slowly, “Well, yes, of course we have sex in America.”

The English teacher continued, “You have those Amish or something, right?”

Huh? Amish? What?

Ohhhh. Sects.

My red-faced answer, “Yes, yes, we have sects and we have Amish too, but I’m not sure they actually qualify as a sect.”

And then as so many times before, I was saved from further discussion by the ringing of the class bell.


Stardust said...

Great!! Sex and sects:)) Can you imagine my stess between "shit" and "sheet"? When I started to work in a salon as an easthetician, I had to be very careful not to say to a client "let me cover you with shit":)))

Chris said...

They might think it was a new salon treatment :)

One of my students once explained how he had spent a fantastic summer vacation lying on the bitch ;)

ucieczka said...

hahaha brilliant! :) Ok, in the evening I finished reading almost all your posts. Maybe 6 or sever I need to catch up with. I read about the PZU appartment, trip to baltic (horrible 'accident') and about the pre-school ( let me warn you that it might happen again in primary school as well :( )... and wow. Firstly I admire you that you stayed and not got scared after traumatic experiences, secondly for a talent for writing... best of all, you write looong posts :)))

Chris said...

Thanks ucieczka. I have some long posts in the works. Nie wiem w co najpierw włożyć ręce.

Stardust said...

Chris!!!! Zobacz jak Ci ladnie idzie po polsku!!!! Brawo!!!!

Daisy said...

Hi! Because I like it here, I'll stay :-)

Oh, Stardust, you're not the only one - I'm avoiding that tricky word in my conversations as well :-)))

I'm using "form", "document" or "bedding" instead, but all my coworkers know about my trauma :-))) So to tease me they make me say "sheet" all the bloody time :-))) How sweet of them !

ania_2000 said...

Got another one – beach and bitch.
Specially in sentence – is this your sheet laying on the beach?;))

Pokoj nauczycielski – or how you nicely call it – teacher launge;) reminded me of my old school times where sometimes I was asked to go there and pick or bring something. The one thing I remember most – was SMOKE. Everywhere. Dense like fog. I couldn’t see anything. All teachers smoked jak PAROWOZY!! haha.
Wonder if this kind of behavior still takes place?

ania_2000 said...

sorry chris, didn't notice you've already mentioned beach.
how about kok? (not cock;) you know - when you have long hair, you may want to style them this way...
and have kok on head;))))

Gosia said...

Small difference sex and sects.
I had confusion, as well.
In English is some words what I'm not sure how to pronounce. Always, when I finish talking - I'm wet. My (how to say?) TONG is entangled.
But is funny!

Chris said...

In our school we had a separate "smoker's room". I had a real dilemma where to sit, in the regular teachers' lounge with all the dziady or in the smokers room with all the cool teachers. A few years later when another American teacher came there to teach they gave him the tapczan from the smokers room as his bed. Eewww!

One of my students told an English man on the phone that she was thong-tied instead of tongue-tied (meaning she had problems speaking that day). Thong = stringi HaaaaHaaaa

ds said...

which reminds me of my english teacher who told us once he can't really make out the difference between two polish words: "szczera" and "ściera". like in "pani jest szczera" or "pani jest ściera". how about you, Chris? ;)

Chris said...

Oh ds you cannot imagine how difficult it is to distiguish between those two sounds. Don't even get me started on Kasia and kasza itd. I can barely hear the difference of the sounds with my ears so I will never produce the difference with my mouth. Strangely enough, I can say "szczera" and "ściera" properly. I have so many other problems with my Polish that I don't even worry about the sz/ś/si issue.

One of my latest "bigger problems" - how to buy a hot water bottle from the pharmacy when you don't know the word in Polish. "Jest taka gumowa torba i mozna dać tam ciepła woda i trzymać gdzie boli" And I got it!!! Good thing I wasn't shopping for condoms.

b. said...

Chris, my own children don't hear a difference between szcz and SC (si,ci - sorry, I don't use polish alphabet). no matter how hard I try to correct them it doesn't come out the way it should. on the other hand my own family in Poland tells me I have an accent. me? I think all of them speak funny, but I speak impeccable polish :)))

Chris said...

I have the same problem. I've got a post about accents in the works. Let's just say, Max Kolonko and leave it at that for now :)