Teacher Eating Sea Turtles

Students kill me. The good students are the easiest to deal with and digest. They come to class. More importantly, they come prepared. They never complain. These are usually the best students in class, because my classes are not very demanding–even my bungo class. The atmosphere is non-threatening, the grammar is explained in English, and the readings come with a wordlist. An extensive wordlist. I know of no other instructor anywhere that gives as extensive a wordlist as I do. My point is that I want my students to focus on the grammar, not the vocab–which they can look up if given the time. Of course, once you start spoon-feeding them, some come to expect it as a matter of course, and they can’t stop chomping on the spoon, then the stem, then my hand.

But at least they’re hungry. And I am always willing to feed those who want to be fed.

Not all students are, you know. For one reason or another, some simply refuse to eat… anything. Some are lazy, some have to work 40 hours just to pay tuition, some have personal issues. They come to class. They come to class late. Or they don’t come to class at all. Whatever. We all have different priorities. But in the end, they need to eat or die of starvation, so now I find myself having to help one student over the summer so she can graduate, because she wouldn’t or couldn’t eat over the course of the semester. Perhaps, she thought I would let her slide and barely pass her. Fat chance. That would be unfair to the students who gorged themselves off me. So I will make her work… I mean eat. This is her last chance.

In any event, I had to figure out how much to feed her–one of her jobs is to do an extensive translation. And to gauge how many pages she would have to do, I translated a short piece that is similar to the work that she will be expected to do. Since I translated it, I thought I’d share it with you. It is a short-short story by Murakami Haruki that most of my students will instantly recognize, one about the youth consuming the previous generations.

Julio Iglesias

After being tricked out of our mosquito coils, there wasn’t a single means left to us to protect ourselves from the attack of the sea turtle. I had attempted to order new mosquito coils by phone and by mail from a mail order company, but just as I had feared the telephone lines had been cut and the mail had stopped since half a month ago. When I think about it, there was no way that that cunning turtle would have let us off the hook so easily. The dude had been made to suffer bitterly thanks to the mosquito coils we possessed. So there is no mistaking that right about now he’s chuckling at the bottom of the deep blue sea, even as he naps in preparation for the night.

“We’re done for,” my girlfriend said. “When night comes, we’ll be eaten up by the sea turtle.”

“Don’t give up hope,” I said. “If we rack our brains, would we be defeated by the likes of a sea turtle?”

“But every last mosquito coil was stolen by that sea turtle.”

“We’ve got to strive to put our theoretical minds to it. If the sea turtle hates mosquito coils, there has to be something else the dude hates.”

“Like what?”

“Julio Iglesias,” I said.

“Why Julio Iglesias?” she asked.

“I don’t know. It just came to me right now. Sorta like a gut feeling.”

Following my gut, I set Julio Iglesias’ “Begin the Beguine” on the stereo’s turntable, and waited for the sun to set. When it gets dark, the sea turtle will attack for sure. When the time comes, we’ll settle this thing once and for all. Either we’ll be eaten, or the turtle will weep.

A little before midnight, when I heard squishy wet footsteps near the entrance, I set the needle onto the record without delay. As soon as Julio Iglesias began to sing “Begin the Beguine” in that sugar-water like voice of his, the sound of the footsteps stopped abruptly and in its place I heard the painful moans of the sea turtle. That’s right, we beat the sea turtle.

That night, Julio Iglesias, sang “Begin the Beguine” 126 times. I too tend towards disliking Julio Iglesias, but as luck would have it, not as much as the sea turtle.

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