Bizarro Moments In TEFL, The Sequel

Due to the popularity of the first odd moments in TEFL post, I’m back with yet another. I’ll admit that it is not really specific to the classroom, but it is hard to imagine it happening in some other context.

One of the few things Sarajevo lacks is good Chinese food (unfortunately I complain a lot about lack of food diversity). There is or was at least one restaurant – some of my students actually wrote a review of it. Among their complaints: no bread served. Their solution? Go down the street to a local restaurant immediately after the Chinese one to get a “real meal.”

So when I realized that one of Sarajevo’s Chinese community had a small shop near my flat, I took matters into my own hands. I initiated a five-minute exchange (I can’t really call it a conversation) with him on the theme of the availability of any potential Chinese food. In Bosnian. I was specifically interested in noodles, which I forgot the word for and had to refer to as “pasta”.

My side of the conversation was pretty basic, and much as you would expect as far as questions, and his was more or less repeatedly saying “no, the only Chinese food is far, very far.” He also expressed disbelief that I couldn’t cook Chinese food at home – well, not without noodles!

But the oddest part was also the part I liked the most: an American and a Chinese using Bosnian as a common language.