I recall 18-months ago asking a colleague if the children will ever tire of barking my name as I walk around the school. “No, never” was the response – and indeed, dozens of excitable Hong Kong kiddywinks continue to holler ‘MISTA THOOOM’ in my general direction, only to giggle and run away when I enquire as to what they may require of me. ‘Say What You See’ is certainly the order of the day. Every day.
Occasionally, however, an open-ended question will follow and, more often than not, the main concerns are one’s comparatively absurd height or hair colour, or the reasoning behind my surprise appearances in the local press.
I therefore felt it prudent to collate some of these queries and respond to them forthwith!
Mr Tom, why your hair is golden?
Child, the unusual pigmentation of one’s cranial hair follicles is due to the modest concentration of melanin present and a variation in the melanocortin-1 receptor (Mc1r gene), which is located on chromosome 4. It features an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance and is characterised by low eumelanin levels. Additionally, phenotypic expression for lighter skin and red hair are interrelated. Thus, in conclusion, Mr Tom’s hair is magic.
Some readers may be familiar the popular nursery rhyme, ‘How Much is that Doggy in the Window’, an important commentary on the economics of the pet trade. In the second stanza, the protagonist insists that canine companionship is superior to all other domesticated animals as she, quote, “can’t take a fish for a walk”.
The following exchange then ensued in my P2 class:
Mr Tom: “So children, why can’t you take a fish for a walk?”
Brian: “It will go to die because it needs water.”
Mr Tom: “Correct, it would die as it needs water.”
Purple: “Mr Tom, you CAN take a fish for a walk.”
Mr Tom: “No, you can’t.”
Purple: “Yes you can, I will show you.”
Yes, her name really is Purple, and here is what she presented me with next day…
Below is a random collection of recent oddities from my students in Hong Kong…
Exhibit A: Check out the photo of what little Charles here came up with. Asked where he’d like to live in the world, the little charmer/teacher’s pet decided on ‘Tom’s Heart’ – and who wouldn’t want to set up camp in such a warm, hospitable and splendid location? Prompted to justify his laudable choice, he poetically writes that “it is beautiful, it is quiet”… Indeed, I like to think my heart if far from ugly and loud, however in the next section, the little sod lists what possessions he’d like to take along with him… “A gun (AK47), Wesley and rubbish.” Note how the child went to the trouble of listing the exact specification of armament required, and not only chose to bring along his mate Wesley but also a load of trash to throw around the place. Now I’ll be damned if I’m gonna allow a 7-year-old Chinese kid to barge into my coronary regions and start going nuts with a firearm and his best buddy whilst lobbing litter about…
I experienced one of those gut-wrenchingly cringe worthy moments tonight. The kind which torment you for years to come, just as you’re trying to get to sleep… Out and about on Temple Street with some visiting friends I bumped into Tim, the noodle restaurant owner next to our flat – a lovely chap. I happily bounced up to him and introduced my French friend, complimented his entrepreneurial wizardry and told his wife how wonderful his cooking was. “This is Tim, he’s a legend, you’ll have to go and visit him” etc..etc… I trotted off, ignoring the fact that he did seem quite perplexed by the chance encounter. A full 5 hours later, I realised why. It wasn’t the noodle guy, his name wasn’t even Tim – it was fucking Steve, our laundry dude – who I’m on equally good terms with. We’ve chatted every weekend for over a year, I know both of their names and see them several times a week…
It would’ve been less worse if I’d gone up to a random – at least that would’ve produced a hilarious anecdote on both sides – this just resulted in me reinforcing the somewhat racist notion that the Chinese ‘all look the same’ to foreigners.