Friday, September 11, 2009

Slightly awkward

Graduate school is more or less what I expected: busy. However, I’m enjoying it very much. While I enjoy the classes that I’m taking I much prefer the classes that I’m teaching. Not that I’m a better teacher than my professors, I just really enjoy teaching. I teach two sections of Spanish 105 and the vast majority of my students are freshmen. That means that while I can still remember the 80’s, they were born in the 90’s. I realize that being 25 does not make me old, but age is definitely relative and I’ve felt a little old lately.

A fellow Spanish teacher approached me today and asked me how to say “awkward” in Spanish. I told her that I didn’t think there was an exact word and the closest I could come to saying awkward would be to say incómodo (uncomfortable). I overheard her ask a native Spanish speaker the same question and she recommended that my friend use the word extraño (weird/strange). I personally feel that my word is more appropriate. However, if I’m ever asked that question again, instead of answering by simply saying a word I’ll respond by sharing a story such as the one that happened to me tonight.

Tonight was BYU’s annual Fall Fest. That includes free food, dancing, magic show, laser tag, and salsa dancing. I generally feel like I outgrew dances about six years ago, but I went to Fall Fest anyway. You know, for the free food. Within five minutes of being at Fall Fest I spotted four of my students. I reacted by pretending not to see them as I figured that they were probably not too interested in hanging out with their teacher whose seven years their senior. One girl was only feet from me and she obviously saw me, but was polite enough to simply ignore me as well. With the risk level of feeling like a peer to freshmen being extremely high, I told my friends that I had gone with that I wanted to leave and we left.

Seeing my students and other freshmen at Fall Fest reminded me of being at an EFY dance. Something I’m definitely too old for. I felt uncomfortable, strange, and weird. I felt awkward.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Purple Dinosaur

I'm going to be teaching SPAN 105 at BYU this fall and I'm stoked. However, I realized that I might need some more clothes that look a little more professional for this job. Since I have very little style or fashion sense I recruited Joleen to help me pick out some new clothes.

Our first stop was the Gap. We found a nice yellow shirt for me to wear (don't worry, it looks good) and proceeded to look at some sweaters to wear with it. Some guy working at the store wearing a purple shirt recommended that I try on a purple sweater. I think he was biased. I looked at the sweater he was referring to and it was a shade of purple that you might expect to see on a blanket that your grandma would buy. Being open minded I decided to try it on. I had a surprisingly hard time getting it on and emerged from the dressing room with a crooked sweater on which caused Joleen to erupt with laughter. She helped me straighten it out and to everyone's surprise it looked great! I was the most shocked of all. However, the yellow shirt with the purple sweater made me look like a preppy Huskies fan so I just left the sweater in the dressing room.

Our next stop was American Eagle. A little too trendy for my taste, but if a girl tells you to go into a store, you go. While Joleen was trying some clothes on I decided to try on a purple polo shirt just for laughs. Imagine our surprise when it looked good too! I couldn't believe it. Me, looking good in purple? I briefly considered buying it, but I bought the gray version of it instead for fear of looking "metro" or "light in the loafers."

We ended the evening by going to Jamba Juice where Joleen ordered a drink called the "purple dinosaur." I tried it and it was delicious. I guess I like purple more than I thought.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I had originally planned on writing about all my adventures in Europe, but the task was so daunting that I gave up on blogging altogether. Now it's been six months since I went to Europe and blogging about Europe now would just be silly. So I'll just write about current events in my life instead.

I moved back to Utah in June to attend BYU yet again and it has been exactly as pleasant as I had suspected. I moved in with some random guys that I didn't know and much to my horror one of them is named Ben. What makes matters worse is that we get along and hang out! Having two Bens live together and hang out caused instant problems and confusion.

The other Ben is currently in a movie for which he had to grow a beard. To remedy the confusion caused by us having the same name we decided that he would go by Hairy Ben and I'd be Tall Ben. That's all well and good, but Tall Ben was promptly shortened to TB. This is the normal reaction when my roommates introduce me to people as TB: "TB? Doesn't that stand for tuberculosis?" to which I reply, "Yes, and it means Tall Ben too." I like being called TB.

I have a super awesome teacher from the Dominican Republic whose English isn't perfect. On the first day of class he was struggling trying to pronounce my last name and finally settled on guessing that it was pronounced "Swahili." Since then I've been known in that class as Swahili. One day in class we were discussing one of the many differences between English and Spanish and at the end of the discussion my teacher said, "In the end English and Spanish are both good languages...and Swahili too." It was very endearing.

The girls from the Relief Society in my ward recently had a Relief Society sleepover (a.k.a. gossipfest) at the Bishop's house. I was latter informed that at one point the girls were gossiping about me and decided that my last name reminded them of the song "Shipoopi" from The Music Man and they have now started calling me Shipoopi.

I've never had so many nicknames in my life. So if you randomly see me walking down the street feel free to shout TB, Swahili, or Shipoopi and I'll probably turn my head.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Europe! Pronounced: your up

Over the weekend I was kindly reminded by two of my friends that I haven't posted for a while and they were interested in hearing about my trip to Europe. I hope this post makes up for the long hiatus.

One of the reasons I haven't posted for so long is that I fill up my free time with things other than posting my life on the internet. Most of those things are complete wastes of time. One of my biggest time fillers which is definitely NOT a waste of time is Lost. I don't know how many of you watch Lost, but it's pretty great. A few years ago I spoke with some people at BYU who were absolutely addicted to the show and they lamented that they had to wait three more years for the show to end and for everything to finally be explain (Lost is very confusing). Thinking that I was smarter than the average bear I decided to not watch Lost at all until the right before the last season was to start. My plan was to watch the first five seasons on DVD and then to watch the sixth and final season on TV. My plan is working out splendidly. I’m currently in the middle of the 5th season and the 6th season starts in a few months. Turns out I’m smarter than the average human too! Sad fact: I once watched 20 episodes of Lost in 24 hour period. Not my proudest day.

When I got back from Europe I had loads of free time. I filled it by looking for jobs and watching TV. A friend of mine works as a substitute teacher and she recommended that I do the same. My initial thoughts were, I’d rather sell my plasma, but I signed up to be a substitute teacher anyway. The way I get sub jobs is through an automated phone message. I get a call from a machine, the job is described and I can push 1 to accept and 2 to decline. As soon as I signed up to be a sub I started getting job offers all the time, but I was too afraid to accept any of them. One morning I was awakened at 5:00 am by a sub call. Just as before I was too nervous to accept the job, but it was dark and I was only mildly coherent and I accidentally pushed the wrong button and accepted the job. I angrily rolled out of bed, got ready, and drove to work. Now I sub all the time and it’s fantastic. I think that everyone should get paid to take attendance and read a book.

The automated sub message is voice activated so when I answer the phone the machine doesn’t start talking until I say something. For a while I just said hello like a normal person. But I quickly learned to recognize the sub finder number on my caller ID and sometimes I’d answer the phone and wait 10 seconds and then say hello. Now I answer those calls by making noises. Most of them are grunts that sound like uh, duh, muh. So if you ever call me and I answer the phone by grunting I just thought that you were the sub finder calling me and I was trying to make myself laugh by grunting into the phone.

I’d like to think that I’m the “cool sub.” The fact that I’m a cool sub goes without saying since I am a sub and I’m most definitely cool. But being cool and being a sub does not simply make you a “cool sub.” That takes a little something I like to call “picking your battles.” It works fairly well. I was subbing in a middle school math class and a girl who was supposed to be doing a worksheet was talking to me about something that I didn’t care about and I feigned interest. At one point she asked, “Are you making fun of me in your mind?” I leaned in a little and replied, “Yes.” Then she said, “I’m going to tell on you” to which I replied, “Fine, tell the principal that the sub was making fun of you in his mind and see what happens.” She laughed and I won and then I got paid for doing it.

I was subbing a few weeks ago and after introducing myself one of the students asked me what my first name is. At first I made it seem like I wasn’t supposed to tell them just to add to the fun. Then I said, "Guess! I’ll give you a clue, my name’s in the Bible." The first guess was Joseph and I said, "Close, I'm named after Joseph's youngest brother." That was followed by perplexed looks. Then people started guessing names like John and Jesus and a boy even guessed Joseph again which was followed by many other students informing that boy of how stupid he was for guessing a guess that had already been guessed. I finally gave up and said, "I have the same name as the leader of the Others on Lost," and a girl instantly shouted "It's Ben!" I guess teenagers are more familiar with pop culture than biblical genealogy. Who’d of thought?

I’ll write about your up in my next post.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Probably Paris

After a few days in London Ezra and I took the Eurostar train to Paris. It was fast. Arriving in Paris took me out of my comfort zone. I couldn't understand what people were saying or read signs and I was unfamiliar with the public transportation system. It all worked out just fine and we rarely got lost and confused. Ezra and I aren't really that interested in art, but we still felt an obligation to go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa. I'd heard that it wasn't too excited, but felt compelled to see it anyway. We arrived at the Louvre a little after 6:00 and were delighted to see that there was no line. We walked around the main entrance for a few minutes and then found out that the exhibits closed at 6:00. I was disappointed, but not heartbroken. The only thing that bummed me out was that now my only opportunity to see the Mona Lisa would be by looking at the millions of recreations of it around the world.

We visited Versailles palace which was absolutely stunning. It was filled with art and is probably the most ornate building I've ever seen. My reaction to the first room I saw was, "WOW!" and the second room, "WOW!" and the third room, "Wow" and the fourth room, "wow..." and the fifth room, "This looks like all the other rooms." There is no denying that Versailles is incredibly spectacular, but it all kind of looks the same and it's difficult to be blown away by the same thing over and over again. I really enjoyed touring the palace, but I think I would have really loved it had I been an art lover or a lover of French history. However, I am neither of those things.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Laughable London

My teaching contract ended on January 26th and all of a sudden I had tons of free time and more money in the bank than I'd ever had before. Time+money=loads of fun. At the end of January I over heard my good acquaintance Ezra telling a friend that he wanted to go to Europe and was going to go by himself because he had no one to go with him. Not wanting to miss a chance for adventure I burst into the conversation that I wasn't a part of and said, "You wanna go to Europe? I wanna go! You going 'cause I'll go!" Ten days later I was in Europe. I didn't blog whilst in Europe so I'm going to blog about the amusing things that happened while I was on vacation. This is the first installment.

Our first stop was London. London had just had a huge snow storm the week before we arrived and was very, very cold. I had brought warm clothes with me, but I hadn't packed a hat or gloves. Neither had Ezra. We met up with Ezra's friend Heath and went to a 99 pence store to buy some. Ezra was eying a hat that didn't have a price tag and he said, "Hey Ben, ask the store clerk how much this costs." I grabbed the hat, walked up to the cash register and said, "How much does this hat cost?" The man at the cash register said "99 pence" very smugly and Ezra and Heath burst into laughter. I must admit that it didn't immediately dawn on me what had just happened. Then I realized that I had been tricked into asking how much something costs in a 99 pence store where everything is 99 pence. I reacted to this situation just as any normal person would -- by feeling stupid.

The following day we went to Greenwich park to have a look at the Prime Meridian. I took a picture standing over the Prime Meridian with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and another in the western hemisphere. I even jumped from one hemisphere to the other saying, "I'm in the western hemisphere; I'm in the eastern hemisphere." Being in one hemisphere and then another really isn't too terribly exciting. In fact, I think it's more exciting to be standing on carpet and then standing on linoleum, but for some reason doing that just doesn't warrant taking a picture.

To be continued...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Schilatypus

In my fourth period class some of my students believe that I can hear everything that's being said in the room. It's not true, although I wish it were. One girl in particular gets really peeved when I comment on what she's saying to her friends or tell her that what she's saying is inappropriate. My ability to hear what's going on has little to do with my ears and a lot to do with the stupidity of high schoolers. When they want to say something private to their neighbor they will often hold up a piece of paper or put their hand in front of their mouth. I've told them many times that hands and paper do very little, if anything, to muffle sound. Yet they still get annoyed when I can hear them.

A few days ago I had given the kids an assignment to work on and I was doing something at my desk. All of a sudden I heard one of the kids say something about crack and something sexual. I immediately said that that was inappropriate and that he needed to stop. As soon as I said that half the class started laughing. Now, if there's one thing I've learned as a teacher it's that it is really bad if everyone is laughing and you have no idea why. It was quickly explained to me that they had made a beat to see how quickly I would stop the conversation and they had started laughing because I had stopped it much sooner than expected. Apparently my ears lived up to their reputation.

Last week I heard another conversation coming from the nether regions of my classroom. All I heard was, "....BYU t-shirt...." and I said, "What did you say about BYU?" I worked my way over to the group of students that I had overheard and they promised that they were behaving. I let them continue what they were doing and a few minutes later they unveiled the Schilatypus. The conversation I had overheard was them discussing if the Schilatypus should wear a BYU t-shirt. The students were pretty pleased with their creation and are hoping to make an entire Schilaty zoo that could include such animals the Schiliger and the Schiloctypus.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This post is as funny as a funny story

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. I thought everyone might enjoy reading them.

Here are last year's winners...

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell twelve stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21 The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.