Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cold Blooded Killer

That was the name of the hot sauce that almost took my life. What I apparently failed to realize when I decided to sample it is that here in New Orleans, they take hot sauce very seriously. I was in this place called "Aunt Sally's." It's a praline shop, which sounds innocent enough, but they sell an assortment of other things, too, and hot sauce is one of them. Two brands were out for sampling.

The first one I tried was excellent. It was yellow-orange, mango flavored, and had just enough of a kick to be interesting. Then, like a glutton for punishment, I decided to try the other one. As a general rule, I like hot food, and at first, it wasn't a problem; it was just very spicy. I even made it out of the store before I experienced anything I would describe as pain.

It was funny for a while. I was bent over, panting. My nose was beginning to run. My sister took my picture. My mom giggled. I joked about needing to go back in and warn people. Then my ears popped.

My entire mouth was screaming. I don't even remember any flavor in the sauce, only pain. Whatever chemicals the devil-sauce contained had been thoroughly absorbed into ever surface my mouth had to offer. My nose was running, but I couldn't form thoughts coherent enough to ask for a tissue to fix the situation. In fact, I think my brother offered me a napkin, and I remember telling him not to talk to me and flailing my arms, almost smacking a lady behind me. I felt bad, but seeing as how I was choking on fire and she wasn't, my focus shifted quickly.

I became quite certain that I was going to die. The entire lower half of my face, from my cheeks to my chin, was tingling, like your foot after it's fallen asleep and just begun to regain feeling. Finally I accepted a napkin and blew my nose, but it wasn't until about half an hour later that my cheeks stopped feeling weird, and even later that my tongue stopped stinging. It's still holding a grudge.

It was both the worst and best hot sauce experience I've ever had.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sixth Graders are Awesome

Today I'm headed to the a local middle school for part two of the journalism workshop I'm teaching there for my graduation project, to a class of twenty-or-so sixth graders. Yesterday they all became reporters, and today they're going to learn about the media. I brought them really professional-looking notepads and boring number two pencils to use to interview each other. I was shocked how excited they were to receive copies of my high school newspaper. I never expected the enthusiasm, although I should have brought more of the issue with the Justin Bieber story in it, apparently.

I made them write news leads about this photo, which got a lot of laughs, and a pretty wide range of creative stories. They demonstrated the worst possible interview, then the best possible interview. I was nervous, because I know all to well what it's like to be on the wrong side of a boring presentation. I've sat for years among apathetic audiences and watched presenters flounder, desperate for some semblance of audience participation. But I hadn't given the sixth graders enough credit.

I guess they just aren't quite as jaded as high school students. In high school, it seems, the kids that are still genuinely excited about learning are few and far between. The middle school kids haven't hit that point yet, and so I had the ideal audience for my workshop. (My mother keeps calling it a "clinic," which makes me feel like I'm applying Neosporin to cuts while teaching journalism...yuck!)

I had a couple of minutes to just sort of converse with the kids as they entered a few at a time to the classroom with their lunches (they got to eat in the classroom, thanks to me, which I'm given to understand is usually against the rules). I admitted that I'd tried to dress like a teacher and asked them if I'd succeeded. One kid said he'd thought I was a substitute, which I took as a "yes."

At the end of the class, one kid asked me how many days I was going to be there. I supposed she may have wanted an estimate on when the torture would end, but based on her expression, I like to think she'd enjoyed the class and wanted to know if I'd be back. Plus, she didn't look totally annoyed when she found out that I would, in fact, be returning.

I left the room on cloud nine. I felt like I was radiating so much happiness that if you'd turned the lights out I would have been glowing. I can't wait for today.