Tyler and I are now co-teaching a new class: American literature. It’s something that we had actually talked about requesting to do, but then we thought that someone else would be teaching it, and an evening phone call informed us that we would be teaching this class; about a weeks notice (I guess that’s just the way things go here). It’s kind of an intense class, as 30 periods are crammed into just a few weeks, so both of us are getting our fill of trying to explain ideas and concepts that we’ve been brought up with to 4th-year university students in the Mekong Delta. Tyler was saying this morning that he was in the midst of trying to get them to understand Calvinist theology and predestination, and I was telling him how I was about to explain John Locke’s social contract theory. It’s heavy stuff sometimes, and I’m sure I’m not doing these ideas justice, but it is fun to teach something that we both studied as undergrads.
Earlier in the class I was teaching Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” I wasn’t sure how much to explain about church and services and Protestants and Catholics; I just wasn’t sure what my students knew. So I asked them: “Please raise your hand if you are a Christian.” No one raised a hand. I found myself explaining what usually happens on Sunday mornings in church, what a sermon is, etc. I find it quite interesting to go back to things that I know and assume that everyone else in the world knows as well. Furthermore, while teaching the same piece of literature, I asked them what they knew about hell. They told me that in Buddhism there is also hell. “But can you get out of it?” I asked. “Of course,” they said. And from there I had to explain the general Christian concept of hell and then the Puritan society of New England, and on and on. It feels tiring, but it is quite interesting too.