Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Penultimates

When I first learned the term 'penultimate' I thought it was a joke. We have a word in English for 'the next to the last'??? Seriously??? But now that I'm wrapping things up in Thailand, this word seems extremely useful.

Today was, for example, my penultimate lunch with Marie. She's heading to Laos today, and will be moving to Bangkok for University while I'm traveling. But since I plan to stay in Bangkok for a while before flying home, we'll have other opportunities to see each other. I actually joined both Marie, and her mother Leah (who is Swiss - dad is Filipino). I've only talked to Leah a couple of times but I like her a great deal. She's in her mid to late 40s which puts me squarely between their ages. And honestly, I find her easier to relate to than her daughter. For one, she's a knitter (!!!!) and she's just a lot more outgoing and chatty. After lunch today I was wishing I'd had more of a chance to hang out with her over the past year - but it just didn't work out like that. I think she's a hoot, but it's not like Donny or Marie would invite her the next time we all went out for drinks. And with four* other kids at home, it's not like she has a lot of free time. In fact I think we mortified Marie when we briefly discussed condom availability in European and Asian counties. But it was nice, to have the day free and to have lunch with girls. Just nice.

Today was also my penultimate class. I had only been teaching it for a short time, but it had the potential to become my favorite class; a group of solid pre-intermediates who were signed up for 120 hours of lessons. I could have gone through the entire book with them - something I never got to do with any of my students, we were always starting in the middle or ending halfway through. I had them do a workbook page that was a challenging review of a lesson I'd kind of botched the class before, and then an activity that I know will be on the exam.** But after that we just played games.... because I felt like it. =P

They took me out to dinner somewhat spontaneously after class. We just went to a cinder block hole-in-the-wall noodle shop, but it was absolutely delicious. My student ordered me a bowl of noodle soup with crab... sweet fresh crab - more than likely caught less than 10 miles away early this morning. The soup was 45 baht / under $1.50 - delicious! It was all the better because I was starving - finally getting my appetite back. I spent a good long time with my head over my bowl chowing down, but eventually we all relaxed a bit and started chatting.

Actually by 'chatting' I mean: they asked me a few questions and I talked at them while they watched attentively - in that manner unique to polite non-native speakers who are trying to grasp overall meaning from the 75% - 80% of what I'm saying that they can comfortably understand.*** After feeling pretty crappy this last week, it was a really nice feeling. Just nice.

Everything I do this week I will be doing for the penultimate time. Since I'm storing my long-term luggage here, I will have to swing through one more time before heading home for good. It's such a strange feeling - it's the last time .... but not really the last time. But it's also a nice feeling the door is closing, but it's not shut yet. My responsibilities are ending and I'm feeling the slightest sense of freedom in the distance. I'm ready to leave, but I'm glad that it's not for good... not yet. Penultimate.... it's a good word.

TAG: Code Mango - yeah yeah, how quickly thing change, but it was nice today, the weather was nice, the company was nice, the class was nice, the food was nice, everything was nice and after feeling crummy for a while, nice can be perfect.

* I think there are four still at home - I lose count - there are 12 kids altogether. Good NIGHT!

** I cannot even express how much easier it is to plan a lesson the second or third time through. After teaching the pre-intermediate class - at least the first three modules - I know what's going to be on the test and I can make sure to cover it thoroughly when it comes up & not just wait until we review the day before the class. Alas - knowing what's covered in the listening portion of the pre-intermediate- units 1-3 exam is not one of those transferable skills we love to put on our resumes. =/

*** Another non-transferable skill I've picked up is a slightly slowed down, well enunciated and grammatically uncomplicated pattern of speaking that we call "Teacher English." I'll use contractions for "it's" and "what's" but not for "can't" because it's too difficult to tell from "can" - I can say what I want to say but I usually slow myself down by crafting my sentences somewhat carefully as I go. I've gotten really good at being easy to understand... so good at it that I often forget I'm doing it when I speak to other native speakers. Fortunately they all do it too so we just laugh at ourselves when we catch it.


Bezzie said...

Ha ha, I didn't believe it was a word either. I remember a particularly windy lawyer--Bernie Fin used it in a pleading. We had to hit up Websters because we didn't know what the hell it meant.

One word for you: Thanksgiving!

Michael5000 said...

"Penultimate" is awesome! They use it all the time in Britain. Same with "fortnightly." There's a word for "every two weeks!" And they're in a regular habit of using it. Awesome.