Silly Grins

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Perfect Balance or Blown Away

That Dr. Mercy, he sure liked to talk. You see, it was his way of keeping his English up so that it flowed when he spoke. That, and the fact that he’d need to be understood when he gave lectures or presentations. Especially if he was going to be going overseas.

Admittedly, it wasn’t the technical jargon that set him back. It was the little stuff. The daily conversational kind of chit-chat words that a person really wouldn’t pick up from their year abroad, especially if most of that time was spent in a lab.

While Dr. Mercy was serious, he was definitely more than human enough to understand a thing or two about what people are made of. And not just because he could name off tissues, cells, bones, guts, and all that other stuff. No, he was one of the few good folk I’ve met.

So, that Dr. Mercy, yeah, he liked to talk during the hour that was set aside each week, an hour sandwiched into an already very busy schedule.

Though he was what people might call short, the fellow was quite solid. But his solid didn’t come from the bit of running and fair bit of swimming that he regularly did.

No. His solid came from being raised at a time when judo was one of the few mandatory options kids were given in school. From an early age. He even continued when he entered med school. He thought it would help him stay focused. And it sure did. 

Once, we had talked a little about postural sway.  And I reminded him of this, to show that I was paying attention and that, although my memory isn’t anywhere near photographic, it still works. 


Now, I’ve been told that maintaining balance is a huge part of judo, like in any sport that requires moving people around. Dr. Mercy said that he was good, but there was one person he had gone against since his childhood, one person he could not beat.

At this point in the lesson - remember, Will was getting paid to ‘sit-and-speak’ - at this point in the lesson, this was taken as a cue to ask a few questions.

“Why couldn’t you beat him?”

“Because he had near-perfect balance.”

“He had near-perfect balance?”

“Yes. His balance was better than mine ever was.”

“Why do think so?”

“Because he was blind. Had been that way since childhood.”

“Was his blindness due to malnutrition or illness?”

“No. When he was a child, he made a mistake. He tried to pick up something he should not have. It was during the war.  Made him blind. And one hand had no fingers.”


“And now it looks like our time is up.”

“Thank you…”

“Can we meet again at the same time next week?”
"Thank you for your time. See you next week."

So, the sessions had a tendency to be like this. We’d read. He’d ask questions about meaning, usage, whatever. And occasionally, he’d share some of his stuff.

Though I can’t remember everything we talked about, I definitely can’t forget how I he made me feel. Not that I can explain it in simple words. Maybe that’s what this space is for. 

There are three more of these to get through.


  1. “And now it looks like our time is up.”

    It's one of the strange things about conversation classes, I think. You get into the flow of talking to someone, it's almost like having a coffee with a friend but at the end of it, you are someone they are paying to talk to.

    1. Almost like coffee with a friend. Sometimes is can be that way, the 'conversation' classes.

      One of my most enjoyable classes is where we just sit and read through news magazine articles. Opinions are never given or thoughts about the topics really shared. It's pretty much paragraph by paragraph, page by page. And the odd thing is, I really like that class because of the clarity, the focus. There's plenty of thinking going on, but no trying to 'be friendly'.

      Someone once commented somewhere about being interested and not interesting. For longevity of conversation classes, the former approach seems to work well for both parties. People learn to say what they want to say in a way that can be understood.

      Dr. Mercy was definitely paying for a service that was being provided. But before he went away, we actually did have time for a chat, but that was over dinner.

  2. Gah! Blogger just ate my first attempt at a comment so if you get 2 sorry. I would have a hard time ending a lesson so abruptly without hearing the end of the story. I would have a hard time having a conversation and then having it cut off, I would much rather do a practiced dialogue that is not really deviated from or reading. That way I don't feel like the end of my Naruto chapter being left hanging until the next week.

    Also, "The daily conversational kind of chit-chat words that a person really wouldn’t pick up from their year abroad, especially if most of that time was spent in a lab." I have noticed this only because I have hosted 11 exchange students. All but the final one were short term. So they didn't have the chance to develop the local coloquilamist or joke around because they failed to comprehend idioms. My last student actually gained a good bit of California casual speak. Which I find pretty funny because he would ask us confused what was meant by, "What's crackin'?" "fo' sure!" Just stuff he picked up that he would then try to use often. Haven't had another student since. It was nothing but tears on the way to the airport. He was so awesome, I don't know if anyone could be that cool. I may try short term again, don't get as attached.

    1. Blogger can be mean when it bares its teeth.

      Those little stories that kind of bled through the lessons were pretty cool. Gems. This post is the second of five on a list. Basically what I was able to remember from maybe two year's worth of meetings. The stories only came out near the near the end of the sessions. I hadn't gone in thinking that it would turn out like it ended up, so it was all a bonus. Good stuff.

      Idioms... despite the fact most high school students are, at one time or another, expected to memorize approximately 600 of them, I found it difficult to teach my first few students idiomatic expressions that make up so much of the way people communicate.

      Exchanges can be really good and fun. The more that happens, the more chances people have to start deprogramming. And all that needs to happen is showing a person a good time.

      Good luck.