Thursday, as I sat in the teacher's room bored out of my mind during my five non-teaching hours, a package arrived for me. It was the box containing pretzels and peanut butter M&Ms and an Iris Murdoch novel that Alea sent in November, arriving not only three months late but, alas, just late enough to be after Lent, which prohibits me from enjoying either the M&Ms or the novel. No matter: I was still overjoyed to see the box, particularly the pretzels, whose absence in my life I've been sorely feeling over the past seven months. I tried to restrain my excitement--Javanese culture places a high emphasis on the bridling of feelings, whether happy or sad, and the teachers already think I'm hilarious/downright strange for my highly expressive use of face and hands in conversation--but clearly failed, as the one teacher who was present when the package came then felt it necessary, later, to relay to all the others how, upon seeing the box, I jumped up and down and waved my arms about wildly. (I believe her exact words were, "She was like a crazy person." I, personally, would call it, at the most, skipping back and forth and maybe moving my forearms a bit, like a moderately happy person, but such are the dangers of intercultural communication.)
So the teachers teased me for a while about how unsuited I am for Javanese culture, and then, just as everyone was getting back to real work, or at least to pretending to really work, Ibu Maya, my favorite teacher, walked in, saw the box, and said, "Aha! The package from your ex-boyfriend!"
Chaos ensued. "Well, that's why she was so happy!" they all exclaimed. "It's not the food she wants, but her boyfriend!" I tried emphasizing to them ex-boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, but to no avail, and I had to endure the teasing to the end of the day. For the record, though, it was the food: I love you dearly, Alea, but I love pretzels more. Add peanut butter M&Ms to the mix, and you don't stand a chance.
And now, a mere two days later, the first bag of pretzels is completely gone. Though I have, I admit, eaten enough to make my tongue sting with salt, it's mostly because I offered the bag around the teacher's room as special souvenirs from America. (Or, um, Canada, but that's basically the same thing.) The teachers all eyed them warily at first, and those who were brave enough to eat a few spat them out in distate at the saltiness, until someone said, "hey, they look like little tree branches" and a giant lightbulb turned on for everyone all at once: "they're just like in Mr. Bean!" (There's an episode where Mr. Bean serves small tree branches to his guests to substitute for pretzels.) From then on it was a rush to the pretzel bag, with several teachers asking for extras to take home to their Mr. Bean-watching children. So the pretzels are gone, but, on the other hand, my stock in the teacher's room has never been higher. Maybe next time I can exchage snacks for teasing: "If I give you my peanut butter M&Ms, you have to stop asking me when I want to get married. Deal?" It'd be worth a shot.
(Note: not a chance. Those M&Ms, come Easter, are mine.)