The classroom of 10th graders greet me together as they stand at attention next to their desks. I ask them how they are and they respond in robotic unison.
“I’M. FINE. THANKS. AND. YOU?!?!”
I tell them I’m fine and let them take their seats knowing full well that any other response would bring on confused grunts, blank stares, and possible brain aneurisms. Today’s lesson, brought to you by our schools mandated British English textbook: Cell Phones! Complete with a plethora of useful vocabulary: display, buttons, accessory, message, SIM card and more! Usually I like to steer the lesson in my own direction away from such non-applicable themes (entire chapters devoted to contortionists and Chinese foot binding for example) but Munkhkherlen, my counterpart, convinced me to follow the book on this one. So using my own phone as a prop I went through the pronunciation of each word. Somewhere during “blue tooth headset” (a device I’ve yet to see in Mongolia) a student shouted out a question. I understood and didn’t quite know how to answer. Munkhkherlen translated, taking my hesitation for not understanding. “Justin teacher, what is your phone number?” Other students quickly echoed the request, and I cringed at the thought of thirty something 10th graders calling me whenever they got bored. “It is a good idea, if they need help or want a tutor”, Munkhkherlen whispered to me. Thats when the light bulb went on in my head. I’ll give it to them in English! That’ll severely reduce the amount of kids who actually get my number! No sooner had I finished reciting it then one of the class’s more advanced students shouted out each digit in clear Mongolian. I grimaced as I watched pens scratch against paper. I nodded to myself satisfied that everyone else in the room was satisfied then picked up my chalk. I turned around and placed the chalk against the board, poised to write the next word. I was stopped before I could even make a mark. The familiar noise reverberating from my pocket.
My phone was ringing.