Tuesday, September 6, 2011


On rare occasions, students of mine have given me gifts. This is always an unexpected, and usually a pleasant experience. Today it was both of those, but also wildly confusing.

I am TAing for the History of Rock and Roll class until Thursday, and today was the instructor's last lecture of the quarter. A student who is not taking the class, but who has been sitting in for fun, came up to us at the end of the lecture and gave us both gifts. This marked the second time he had spoken to us in six weeks (the first being when he asked, after three weeks of sitting in the back of the room observing, if he could sit in the back of the room and observe), as his English is not very good and he seems somewhat shy.

The gift he gave the instructor was a pair of charming scarves, of the sort one could imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing constantly, but with slightly more dramatic patterns. The gift he gave me was...hard to describe. If I had to try, I would say it was a cartoon-esque plastic relief sculpture of an angry Peking Opera character on a black-and-gold background of Chinese characters that I cannot read.

"Character" in that sentence refers to roles in an opera, while "characters" refers to the logograms that make up the Chinese alphabet.

Longtime readers of this blog may recall that last summer I taught a course that included a day on Peking Opera, but this student had absolutely no way of knowing that. This course has nothing to do with Peking Opera. How on earth did he come up with this gift idea? Why did he want to give us gifts at all? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

The answer to all of these questions is, of course, "One, two-hoo, three."

This post has been brought to you by my effort to get back into blogging regularly. And by Tootsie Pops.

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