Friday, January 25, 2013


The photo above shows the chickens' water, which has frozen these last two nights. It's officially cold in North Carolina. I've been complaining, naturally, even though I know for a fact that other people have it much worse. In Wilmington, we get maybe two or three weeks of temperatures that dip into the low 20Fs - places like Yakutsk, the coldest inhabited city in the world, hovers around -40F for months! I know this, because I check the weather in Yakutsk every day, mostly because I want to remind myself that 20F is not so bad, and also because I am fascinated by the fact that people - actual human beings! - willingly live in Yakutsk. I'd like to write an essay about this one day, but I'm afraid it would require me traveling to Russia for research, and if you've heard me whining about having to de-freeze the chickens' water, you know that I am not equipped for such a journey. 

Speaking of writing and ice, I have gotten in the habit of beginning each class with an icebreaker - a silly question, often related to the day's lesson, to get the students talking and sharing things about themselves. It's a trick my fellow TA Ben suggested, and I'm so glad I listened. If we're discussing setting, I ask them to name a place that is important to them. If we're talking about memoir, I want to know their earliest memory. Sometimes I ask them weird things, like how do you think the world will end? Sometimes I forget to come up with a question, and I ask the students to think of one instead. 

Which is what happened yesterday, which is how we got into discussing the strangest things we'd ever eaten. I have to remind you (because I had to remind myself) that I attend a state university, so most of my students are North Carolinians, born and raised. Many of them are from rural communities. Many of them grew up on farms. 

So we got some of the usual strange items - dog biscuits (really, who hasn't?), snails, chocolate covered crickets. Things got a little weirder, but still, not too crazy - squirrels, rabbit, assorted woodland critters. And then there were a few surprises. Swan. Grizzly bear. Cow brain. And then, the final course. The thing that stopped us all in tracks. The moment I lost the class to a cacaphony of horror and near tears. 

Dog tacos. As in: tacos made from dogs. 

The student did not mean to eat the dog tacos. She was traveling, there was a language barrier. She didn't know. She cried when she found out. Understandable, but still horrifying. And just like that, the ice was broken.  

Sometimes, I really love teaching.