Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Toughest Crowd

Don't forget to read the small print.
I was looking forward to speaking to Eliot's class today...then she handed me these notes (see photo). The kind of rules and regulations you might see when signing a rental contract...only more detailed and with smaller handwriting. I guess winging it was no longer an option. These were tough guidelines to follow and point n.5 to 'make jokes along the way,' wasn't as comforting as you might think. And just in case I was feeling overly buoyant, at bedtime she added in a sweet, conspiratorial tone: "I really don't get your book."
Still, I arrived at her school fairly confident, after all I had gotten this book past the entire editorial team of Marshall Cavendish, a reputable publishing house. Surely a couple of fourth graders couldn't scare me. Since I was a little early, I checked out the lost and found which according to my children is strictly off limits to kids. Retrieving the many assorted plastic food containers lost in the past few months further boosted my spirits.
Ms. Roxanne Walker, the teacher was very welcoming and the kids were engaged, although we were off to a bit of a rough start when I showed them the cover of my book: "Diary of an Expat in Singapore," and they asked me what an expat was. Telling them that they were all expats surprisingly came as a revelation. "We are?!" After some debate, it was agreed that expat kids like air conditioning, long plane trips, roti prata, and wearing sweaters, but most importantly have passports from other countries. I then asked them to reveal one true thing about themselves as a way of differentiating fiction from non-fiction. One kid noted that in Singapore only people at airports wear jeans. Another that people wear shorts, while back home they wear long pants. Another that when you leave an air conditioned building, it feels like hot air envelopes your entire body. Another that he really liked cold air....I was starting to notice a pattern. And somewhat predictably, when I asked about zodiac signs their answers were all animals. Yep, expat kids.
Afterwards, outside the classroom, Eliot confided that she had been a little worried but that her classmates liked me. I guess sharing the chapter about Eliot as a five year old was a good idea. It's incredible how funny a five year old can appear to a ten year old. It's all about perspective. Especially, the revelation that she had once said to a host: "My name is Eliot and my Daddy ate a rabbit," brought a huge laugh from the class. Disturbingly true, yet clearly still a crowd pleaser.