Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The bane of English teachers abroad: the student crush

Above: I tried to buy this painting of Ahh-nold in Krakow, Poland, but the artist wanted 500 Zloty, or about $230. Sorry, Arnie, you just ain't worth that much to me. Still, imagine coming home from work and seeing this hanging above your mantle everyday.

The best college student presentation I ever heard was given by a tall, black-haired, sensuous Spanish lady in my International Communication Class. Maybe it wasn't the best, but I certainly didn't mind the way she coyly mispronounced the names of countries, or the way she brushed her hair aside when she was thinking. She was the sexy foreign exchange student, and playing the role of your average Fred Fraternity, I and my male classmates were never more attentive.

That was all fun and games until I became that sexy foreign exchange teacher. It was certainly eye-opening to change places with my college professors within three months of graduation, but it was shocking to suddenly be the "It" English teacher on campus. Risking narcicism and a facetiousness I've known only among college greeks and politicians, I have been reluctant to relate my new experience as the foreign teacher dodging the advances of his all-female classes. Alas, I will tell all.

My best friend and roommate Brett had warned me about Ukrainian women and how, if you're not careful, you could suddenly be asked out by a 37-year old colleague(which actually happened to Brett). He also explained that Ukrainian men have a life expentancy of about 50 years, which might be due to their morning breakfast routine of a beer and a pack of cigarettes(no joke, I hope to do a story about this), dangerous working conditions and poor jobs, pollution, and raging alcoholism. Needless to say, there are slim pickin's for the women of Ukraine and, as in Flannery O'Connor's story, a good man is hard to find.

This might contribute to the once vast numbers of women emigrating from Ukraine, a major social issue. Women who get married here, have kids, and then leave for EU countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, etc. and then start another family(more on this later). Brett's point, and the point of two Harvard students that taught here with him, was that women aren't necessarily interested in a green card to the United States(a common stereotype among Americans, and often isn't true, but does exist), but are just looking for a good guy. Hence, Ukrainian Catholic priests, who can marry, are popular among the ladies because generally they tend to be good husbands. But anyway, back to my dilemma.

I became suspicious that something was in the water here when a student asked me out my first week of teaching. I think I handled it well, explained my policy of "no dating students"(she wasn't actually my student, but a student nonetheless), and changed the potentially suggestive beer at a bar date to a platonic cup of coffee at a cafe. Dodged one bullet.

I have four classes at UCU(only three of which I'm actually getting paid for), and the elective I teach is American Culture. I missed the date for posting class descriptions, so I had to advertise on a billboard with a sign up sheet for at least three students to make it a registered course. Apparently, I wrote a pretty good course description because six girls(a medium sized class at UCU) showed up at the first session. The following class, I had 10 students. Then 12, all girls. I had turned down three more because of scheduling conflicts(Ukrainians think they can sign up for a twice-a-week class, then only come one day a week), when another two girls showed up at the office a week ago asking to join. I had already maxed out my registration limit(12) and was reluctant to let them into the course, but they mentioned they had friends who wanted to join my class.

"How many friends?" I asked.
"oh, I don't know," they said, "maybe 10?"
I turned them down, too.

I had a similar experience with my graduate course, intended for 5th year students. Many of them come from Ivan Franko University in L'viv and are excellent students. However, I was a bit disappointed when only 2 people showed up the first day. The next class, I had four students, three of them girls. Three weeks into the semester, 11 new students I had never seen before walked into the class, all women. The small course curriculum had to be completely rewritten, but we are now focusing on journalism and literature in that course.

I thought I might throw the dogs off my scent by using Ukrainian cologne, or what Americans call "body odor." Alas, I couldn't stand my own stench or the dandruff, and I broke down and bought a stick of deodorant and started showering more often. My recent poverty, something I thought was kind of a fun experiment, doesn't seem to lower my stock value either. I pondered telling people that "I'm taken," but they might get suspicious since I'm living with a dude.

Nonetheless, girls are the ones who come to my classes most often, are most attentive and take the classes seriously. At least I can be grateful for that. Just this past weekend I went on a pilgrimage to Stradch, a memorialized site of a modern martyr-a priest that was murdered by the soviets-and the tragic grave of those slaughtered in a Tartar massacre. I was not surprised when I suddenly became the person-to-take-your-picture-with and girls began practicing their limited english on me. I talked to one of them about the article I was writing for the university and rolled my eyes at the giggles I heard from the others.

"And how old are you?" I asked, penning away answers.
"My age?" she said innocently. "Why I'm 16."

Yeah, maybe I will go with "I'm taken."

2 comments:

Julie said...

oh ADD boy.....if you do find yourself trapped into dating- get Brett's approval first. i beg you

CR said...

haha ooo mike yuu arr jest soo sexxxxy.

why can Ukrainian priests marry?