Saturday, November 9, 2013

Teaching New Subjects

Haven't been anyplace exciting nor had anything all that interesting happen these last few weeks, hence the gap in my blogging. I'm just plugging away at this new semester, really getting into being a teacher.

My course on using English for the new ASEAN future class is going well. They took their first test and everyone passed! I'm going to be pivoting this week away from economics and demographics and begin looking at culture and customs with the business world in mind. Monday's lecture will be all about different greetings rituals used throughout the region. The second half of the class will be 'shaking hands practice'. Yes, I am teaching them how to shake hands. There are many wrong ways of doing it.

One thing Asians are known for is the soft handshake, and I'm not going to try to cure them of that as it is the custom here. In America (I don't know how they do it in Europe), men shaking hands is almost a contest of strength. A 'firm handshake' is considered a virtue, a positive character trait. In Asia, the hand is lightly gripped and it can go on a while. In America, you look the other man in the eye when shaking his hand. Here, that would be challenging and disrespectful. I will, in handshaking practice, teach them a little of these western ways too, as if they ever find themselves having to shake hands with a burly, culturally-unaware American, I don't want them risking having their metacarpals broken.

Also next week, we get further into a unit in another class where our topic is titled 'dying for your beliefs'. We're reading a long article about some parents who were charged with a homicide when they let their 11 year old die of diabetes. They were Christian Scientists who don't go to doctors for these kinds of things and believe that prayer and The Scriptures can cure diseases.

Normally, the readings for our English studies are banal subjects like music, movies, sports and food. Talking about religion, well, it's kinda weird. A lot of my students are also of the mindset that prayer, meditation, using the power of the mind itself can be more effective than 'western' medicine. That's fine. In no way, shape or form am I here to change that opinion. Still, when summarizing the content of these rather difficult paragraphs in the reading, it is hard for me to keep my personal opinions out of the tone of my voice when I say things like: “They believed that only God could help their child with diabetes.”

Then again, who am I to talk? I specifically requested my mom send me a bottle of some South American herb called 'maca', based on the advice from a random friend on the internet. When I was writing about the bulging disk in my back, I got an e-mail from a friend who told me that this herbal remedy had done wonders for her when she had a similar problem. She swears by it. I was in so much pain, I was willing to try anything, and Mom was dutiful in shipping me this box of pills.

It's supposed to take a few weeks for this stuff to build up in your system and become effective, but my back still hurts. I haven't lost all faith in the maca, but it just goes to show that however derisive I am of the Christian Scientists, I'm sure a western-trained orthopedist would scoff at us going through all this trouble for some obscure Peruvian root. The label doesn't even indicate it is for skeletal issues. In fact, the maca says it is for Healthy Sexual Libido, Function and Fertility. It's herbal Viagra!

Come to think of it, I have been feeling a little more frisky lately....


  1. Are you expecting some really bad weather from the far edge of the Typhoon? Bangkok looks like it is in a location where flooding could be a problem. Please keep in touch. We are thinking of you.

    1. Really horrible what happened in the PI... Fortunately, the typhoon won't effect the weather here in Thailand one bit. We're quite a ways 'inland' in relation to the South China Sea, and that's where the storm is now.

  2. One way of dealing with the apparent foolishness, quite possibly criminal neglect, of such dogmatic beliefs is to drop the anger and replace it with compassion for the misguided position the parents held. There is a difference between faith and superstition.

    I strongly believe in the healing power of God but with a healthy respect that we are responsible to live as healthy a life style as we are capable of ...... and that God does not necessarily do miraculous healing but is more likely to direct one to use the logical options. After all if we have faith in God as the creator we should be able to accept that he gave us the brains to become doctors etc.

    This is not meant to be a lecture although it sounds like one. It sounds as though you will have an interesting time with this class. Hope my thoughts help.



Discovering Northwest Myanmar 16: Kataung to Mandalay

I call them "Burmese Doughnuts". They've got another name, but essentially, it's fried bread. The three-week adventur...