The Juice and the Mushrooms
my favorite classes is the 7:30 to 9:30 class on Thursday nights. Unfortunately
it is down to only five students, but these five remain sharp as needles and
they are young enough to still be very cute. At the center of the class are a
brother and sister around the same age, 10 or 11. Their names are Johnny and
Judy. In the back sits a plump, white-skinned boy named Jason. Simon is a new
student, and is still speaking in three- or four-word sentences. Lisa is 13 and
sits in the front.
night a discussion of the word vegetarian led me to mention that Taiwan has
a lot of vegetarians because there are a lot of Buddhists. So I had to teach
them the word Buddhist too, because the Chinese word for Buddhist doesn't
sound anything like the English. And mentioning Buddhists sent me off on a
tangent: finally I had listed five major religions on the whiteboard and was
asking them to tell me what they knew about each.
knowledge is surprisingly wide. That they know about Buddhism and Taoism is no
big deal, but they could also tell me things about Islam and Christianity. Not
too much, but at least a few things.
Muslims believe in the Koran," said Johnny, using the Chinese for Koran.
have to pray fifty times a day," Jason said.
they only pray five times," Lisa said. "And they don't eat
her it was pork they couldn't eat.
Christians believe in Jesus," Jason said. "They think he was a great
man, and he helped all the people."
don't only think he was a great man," I pointed out. "They believe he
was God. God come down to earth."
believe in the Bible," Johnny said, using the Chinese for Bible. I wrote
the English for Bible on the board.
the Christians are fighting Muslims in Jerusalem," Jason said. "They
came from England, and they want to take the Jerusalem."
moment I thought of the Crusades, and wondered if he was seriously mixed up.
But no, he said he saw it on the news. "They are fighting now," he
started drawing a map of Israel on the board, putting it in its place in a map
of the Mediterranean. And I told them that it wasn't the Christians who were
fighting the Muslims, but the Jews.
are the Jews?" I asked them.
knew the answer. And Johnny knew that the Jews believe in the Bible, but that
they only believed in the Old Testament.
why the Jews came to Israel from Europe and Russia. Nobody knew why. So I
mentioned the name Hitler as one good reason. They started to figure it out, they
remembered that people in Europe were bad to the Jews and that the Nazis killed
millions. I pointed out that the Jews could read in the Bible how God promised
them the land of Israel.
Muslims had been living in that land in the meantime. So why could the Jews
just come and take it?
were more Jews," Jason said. "They won the war."
there weren't more Jews, I pointed out.
Jews came from Europe," Johnny said. "They had better guns."
smart kid. I agreed with Johnny. But what about the Palestinians? I showed them
on the map where most of the Palestinians now lived. Were the Palestinians
they're not," Lisa said. "They're Muslims. They're the Muslims that
live in Israel."
figured out who the Palestinians were, and gave the Chinese translation, even
though the 20-something teaching assistant had tried to help me out but botched
it: he'd translated my English "Palestinian" with the Chinese word
is right," I said. "The Palestianians are mostly Muslim. So in this
area of the world, you can see the Jews fighting against the Muslims."
who hadn't been listening for awhile, looked at me and twisted her eyes.
hit her desk and stood up to complain: "What are you saying now, you fool?
This is ridiculous!"
Judy? What's the problem?"
are you talking about the juice fighting the mushrooms? You are a crazy
started laughing, especially the teaching assistant and the other foreign
teacher observing the class. When Judy wants to complain, her grammar is
usually excellent. She hadn't been listening, but of course she knew I wasn't
talking about juice and mushrooms. She just wanted to undermine the discussion.
what I'm saying is true, Judy. It's you who are crazy. We're talking about
that's wrong. YOU are crazy. First you're saying juice comes from Europe, and
wants to go to Israel. That's very crazy! Then you say the juice fights the
mushrooms. You should get fired! What kind of juice is that, huh? Apple juice? What kind of juice?"
her desk again. Jason and Lisa were laughing very hard.
not the juice, Judy. It's the Jews."
don't care. You are crazy! I know the truth."
mushrooms live in Jerusalem," Jason said, laughing.
can make a lot of pizza there," Johnny said.
am I coming to this class?" Judy said. "He is a crazy man! We should
leave right now!"
Leave!" they were all yelling, pretending to pack their bookbags to go.
kind of thing happens every other week. Judy or Johnny are usually the
masterminds. This was Judy's best joke so far.
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