Ask Me No Questions and I’ll Tell You No Lies

A dirty little secret of being a teacher overseas is that you are one part educator, one part bald-faced liar. Well, you don’t start out that way; it’s just that you quickly learn that lying is part of the job.

More specifically, it’s a defense mechanism. When I was in Albania, a fairly common conversation would proceed something like this:

Albanian–Tell me how much is kilogram of meat in America?
Me–What’s a kilogram?

Well, that was an EARLY conversation. A few months later the conversation was more like:

Albanian–Tell me how much is kilogram of meat in America?
Me–What kind of meat?
Albanian–Beef steak.
Me–What kind of beef steak? There are different cuts.
Albanian–Just average kind.
Me–Well, in Kansas the cheapest kind was–
Albanian–No, New York City.

Substitute “kilogram of meat” with “liter of milk”, or “pack of cigarettes” or “car” or “house” and you start to get the idea of what we were going through. Eventually, we just gave up and started lying.

Therefore, by the end of the first year, the conversation went more like.

Albanian–Tell me how much is kilogram of meat in America?
Me–Twenty dollars.
Albanian–It is expensive, I think. How much is kilogram of chicken?
Me–Sixteen dollars.
Albanian–I see. How much is pack of cigarettes?
Me–Seventeen dollars and twenty-seven cents.
Albanian–(Lighting cheap Partizani Cigarette). America is bad place.

I justified it by telling myself that somewhere, somehow those things were actually those prices.

I wish I could say things had improved in the age of the internet and the smartphone, but even here in Japan teachers field questions such as “How much it cost to have wedding in America?” I always say “ten thousand dollars” and then watch while they start to do the math in their heads “102.23 times 10,000 equals” pulls out smartphone, uses calculator “Ahh, that is cheap I think.” I don’t tell them they can just head over to the Little White Chapel in Vegas and be married and out for a lot less. I also don’t say look it up.

Part of what gets to you is it isn’t always a way to lead into a broader conversation; you really are expected to be a kind of living breathing Wikipedia, and it gets old fairly quickly.

Luckily, no one’s ever looked up and called me on it. If they do, though, I’m ready for it.

“Well, I haven’t been home in a while. Things may have changed a bit.”

I try to be a good person. Really I do, but only as necessary.

One thought on “Ask Me No Questions and I’ll Tell You No Lies

  1. Steve Brisendine

    I haven’t gotten that many questions about America during my travels, and when I do I haven’t been as quick-witted.
    A young Tunisian man asked me during a train-ride conversation, “Why, in America, if you go to ‘bordel’ you get (mimes handcuffs)? Here, is legal.”

    I said something about how it was seen as a public health issue, but I should have just replied that it is legal to prostitute yourself in America if you first win an election. Then again, that wouldn’t really have been a lie, I guess.


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