Wednesday, December 20, 2006

High Voltage Translated

The adult ESL students today all looked like zombies.

Some had cavernous, pitchy carvings under their eyes.

Others had face blemishes and actual, real human skin in places where caked foundation and carpet-thick blush usually resided…

Some wore PayLess sneakers in place of high heels, and jeans instead of tight lycra-esque wristbands around their waists.

It was a strange day, indeed.

I thought a reality TV show slash cross-culture-dressing, Twighlight Zone emissary had descended in the night and possessed, redressed and re-made my Past Perfect Continuous-learning disciples.

It was either that, I thought, or they had all gotten happy-hour hammered the night before and were still recovering from the cheap shots of sleazy American culture and first-time, salt-tequilla-lemon-slice pick-up lines of the local fauna.

But, as it turned out…, my suspicions were unfounded.

The Saudi Arabian woman was just up all night because her baby was sick. The Taiwanese man was just overly perplexed about the psychological intricacies of homophobia in different cultures, and dying for discussion. The Spanish man had just spent the past 53 hours drinking coffee and painting in preparation for his next exhibit. The Korean man was just stressed about packing and buying souvenirs for his trip home in two days. The Peruvian woman was just ill from food-poisoning. And, the Japanese girls all simply had a group feeling of “low-voltage/ discontentment,” as they called it…

“Low voltage?” I inquired.

“Yes, Low Voltage, Low Tension” they responded (if not in verbal unison, then at least in vocal intention).

“Oh, you mean you are not feeling very energetic or excited today?” I guessed (mentally translating Japanese English to Comprehensible English).

“Yes, that’s right. We are feeling low voltage today.”

“Meaning… uh… that if I touch you now, I will not instantaneously become a fried, electrocution-flavored human corpse?”

“That’s right,” they repeated, completely baffled: “Low Tension.”

And, so it was that today I learned to associate “Low voltage” with the wearing of sweat pants and the absence of face make-up.

It’s quite astounding, really, the worldly insights and intrinsic bits of universal knowledge that we would all be deprived of were it not for quality Cross-Cultural Education.


dingobear said...

Your students had you fooled - clearly they were all baked after taking drags from the canta- ... oh, never mind.

Hehe, seriously though, love that "low voltage / low tension" comment. Very Japanese. Just think how boring the English language would be if it were not periodically refreshed by the perspective of those from other cultures every now and then.

Nico said...

I may have to start using low voltage as a description for my off and down and worn out days... I'm getting some luvverly mental images out of it.

Dusty said...


At the Delhi airport waiting room, I was once told: My head is going rounding-rounding. The lady in question, was feeling weak and dizzy.

Low voltage is cute. Like Nico, I will try it out. Maybe on my unsuspecting colleagues.

kingfelix said...

i am more old-fashioned, preferring "my legs are wood", "my brain is wood", to excuse my morning-after drugged-out corpse from all the various duties of citizenship. "sorry i never said hello, i had a wooden tongue, big night" etc.

Cap'n Rich said...

Dear -, if I may address you by your first name.

My link now works. Maybe I can offend a larger audience.

-c said...

dingobear- now, now. None of MY students would be hitting the cantaloupe, I assure you...:)

nico- you could even teach it to the little ones: "How are you?" "I'm low-voltage." "Oh, sorry to hear that."

dusty- ha ha! I've had a few occasions in my life when my head went rounding-rounding. too bad I didn't know how to describe it at the time:)

kingfelix- My brain is often wood. Though some mornings it feels like styrofoam.

cap'n rich- yeah, I changed your link. Welcome back!

Frustrated Writer said...

I have often felt like the ohms weren't cycling quick enough and that the amps were non-existent and needed a hit from my favorite transformer... oh you know, a bit low voltage.

I generally say "I'm not hitting on all cylinders today." Or, "I think the cat ate my brain last night and spit a hairball into the ravaged mass." Both seem to get the message of low energy across.

-c said...

frustrated- I like the cat-barfed hairball phrase myself.
though, honestly, in my real life I'm much more boring than my online -c may claim... I usually just go with the tried-and-true: "sorry- but I'm sleep-walking today."

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