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.