Apparently, grammar and writing are what it takes for me to feel more in tune with this country.
As absurd as that sounds, it actually makes perfect sense. V and I spoke the other day about having Indian and non-Indian sides to us — well, obviously, but all my close friends have been Indian, for some absurd reason that I always tried to blame on my upbringing. To be honest, and I know it sounds insane, I never thought I’d be good friends with a white American (except Rob).
And then there was today. On Fridays I work 4 hours at the UT UWC, helping to correct grammar and organization and generally gently and kindly knock some writing sense into my fellow undergraduates. It’s a fantastic job; even when I’m not feeling my best and I all I want to do is feverishly program, my job actually calms me down and boosts my self-esteem. There’s not that many jobs like that.
Today, I consulted with a couple of grateful students and spent the rest of my time trying to be programmatically productive in the break room, but actually laughing my way through hilarious conversations — our pre-college lives, our past consultations, books we’ve been reading, word choices and cultural stuff — with ex-internship classmates.
Then we wrapped up early to talk to some of the kids who had turned up at the reception for future UWC internship students. It was honestly wonderful to hear everyone talking about how much they loved work — if the consultations aren’t going great, you know you at least have the breakroom conversations to boost you; it’s so cool reading papers about subjects you don’t know the first thing about and learning random facts; it’s great that there is time to actually do some work when you’re not consulting.
I had a lot of fun telling them about the first time I came into the UWC and was delicately but firmly put in my place re. a scholarship essay (I never got the award, which explains a lot). Three years ago from then, and a week before this, a young cocky freshman walked in and asked me to just look over his essay because he thought it was pretty much okay. I picked up my pencil and showed him about three or four things that could be done with transitions that he’d never considered before. “Oh, okay,” he said, surprised and intrigued. “Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, I could do that! Thanks for your help!”
So I was helped, and now I have a chance to help someone else!
Embarrassing moment: when JR, our prof, spoke about getting a few “grammar Nazi” students in the class, every other undergrad consultant turned and laughed at me.
Eventually that evening, I came to the conclusion that my colleagues are probably some of the wittiest, smartest, nice, grammatically accurate people I’ve ever encountered.
And that I can actually hold conversations with Americans. YES.
Today I ventured into Hole In The Wall — it’s a, well, hole-in-the-wall type of bar — for the first time with two other consultants. In one and a half hours, we talked about:
a) religion – Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism – and intimacy as evidenced by the usage of the formal second person “you” vs “thou”
b) languages and their descendants and ancestors, e.g. Turkish actually being a conglomeration of Persian, Arabic, Farsi and some Turkic thrown in for good measure; the different Indian languages and their relations to each other
c) a dissertation on 21st century avant-garde theater being a throwback to pre-Elizabethan theatrical traditions, which one of the other consultants was working on
d) cultural confusion as evidenced by the other undergrad consultant and myself; Singlish, most specifically the literal translations of “wah lau” and “ang moh”
f) a discussion of beer, journeying in Germany, encountering a cuckoo clock of sorts which enacted a story of how a mayor drank an entire barrel of wine to save his countrymen from the Swedes
I reiterate: best job I’ve had.