Goodbye Mr ‘Why Not?’

A couple of weeks ago, I had yet another eye-opening conversation with my Latvian homies. I was in a lesson and we’d just finished a rather difficult reading about a man who had left his high-powered career in finance behind to set up a bagel-delivery company.

Me: Were there any words you didn’t understand?

Class: No. 

Me: Really? Nothing?

Class: (Some shuffling and exchanging of glances)

Me: What?

Mr ‘Why Not?’: What’s a bagel?

Me: What?!

Yes, you heard it here first – Latvians have no idea what bagels are. I also discovered that it’s rather tricky to explain a bagel to people who have never seen or heard of them.

Sadly for me, this group has now come to an end, which is a real shame as they were a great bunch of people. It’s also a sad day for the blog as this was the group that not only brought us Mr ‘Why Not?’, but also the Questionable Teeth-Brushers and Mr ‘How to Turn Some Old Sperm into a Retirement Plan’. Blogging gold.

For the last lesson, I decided to treat them as they’d all done really well in the exam. (The lowest mark was 84% which leads me to believe that I am awesome at my job…) I popped in to see my new best friend, Jack (aka The Muffin Man), at his café on Gertrudes Iela. Naturally, Mr ‘Why Not?’ was going to get an extra surprise…

Why not?

Why not?

The muffins were declared excellent and within around 1.5 minutes, there was nothing left but crumbs. After going through the exam results and handing out the certificates, it was time for Scrabble. Amazingly, one or two of them had actually played it before. It’s not unusual to have a group of 9 or 10 people and not one of them has ever seen it. Pure sacrilege, if you ask me.

Playing Scrabble with students is entertaining and frustrating in equal measure. In the interest of fairness, I try not to join in unless someone is totally stuck. Over the years, I’ve had to develop the skill of smiling and saying ‘well done!’ through gritted teeth when a student doesn’t see the beautiful 7-letter word they’ve got sitting there, and instead put down ‘it’.

The shining moment of this particular game was when one of the girls managed to make ‘whore’. I felt so proud.

At the end of the lesson, I was presented with this –

Thank you!

Thank you!

I wonder if ‘why not?’ is a good enough reason to crack open the prosecco…


About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, TEFL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

85 Responses to Goodbye Mr ‘Why Not?’

  1. Mārtiņš says:

    “A bagel” is called “baranka” in Latvian. It’s Russian origin (I think it has travelled into Latvian from Russian), sounds Russian but used in Latvian as well.

  2. Jarro says:

    uffff…. Now I need to google what bagel is!?

  3. Aussa Lorens says:

    And now I want a bagel. Your students are lovely, I’m jealous of the work you do!
    Also: the song I referenced, about selfies, is totally real and not a hallucination. I tried to tweet the video to you earlier but my computer crashed (its that bad). I will try again soon, and I apologize in advance.

  4. Daina says:

    Scrabble is great. My dad was a full-fledged adult when he came to the U.S. and spoke English with a good Latvian accent, but it wasn’t rare for him to beat my sister and me in English language Scrabble. Some of my fondest memories, however, are of the few times the three of us decided to play mixed-language Scrabble, using all three of our common languages: Latvian, English, German. We just pretended like there are no diacritical marks in LV or German. 🙂 Good times.

    Too bad this group has come to an end (don’t they need advanced English lessons now?!?), but surely you’ll find other fodder for your blog!

    • Expat Eye says:

      They’ve been offered an advanced class but with a different teacher – I don’t think any of them are continuing though 😉 They’re good enough as they are now! Mixed language Scrabble sounds like great fun!

  5. Nene says:

    Love it when you get a group of “characters” who, maybe after some initial “difficulties”, gel. I play “Taboo” with my students and the arguments/competition it generates are great!

  6. Scrabble is a good way how to learn language! I bought one in our local thrift store for 2 Euros and now I am learning Swedish with it. I use my dictionary if I can’t form a word and afterwards I just learn all the new words for me.

    I think I didn’t know what is bagel for quite a long time too, but since I love cooking videos in Youtube (Sorted Food is my favorite) when I heard it I googled it. Actually I think we have something similar to it. Have you seen them in Rimi – barankas? The big and soft ones not the small ones. It is more like a snack, but we don’t use it as regular bread.

  7. Congratulations on your exam succes – you are clearly the best teacher, and if that’s not a good reason to open the prosecco, then what is?.. 🙂 I love Scrabble, but I didn’t know you could play on Facebook.

  8. I’m still trying to understand how people don’t know what “bagels” are. LOL Then I thought– that would be a difficult thing to explain, because they are boiled…right? ugh.. Anyway– too much thinking and too much thinking requires booze– so yes– open that bottle!!

  9. Allison says:

    Hehehe, awesome. It’s excellent that you’ve bonded so much with your students. As a foreign language student right now, I can tell you that an engaged teacher makes all the difference. Good job! 🙂

  10. Any reason is good enough to crack open a bottle of booze! 😉 Oh, and I love Scrabble!

  11. barbedwords says:

    Mmm, prosecco and bagels sound like a great breakfast combo – I can buy a decent bottle of prosecco here for less than a bottle of orange juice so I think that might actually be my new breakfast from now on 😉

  12. Antuanete says:

    Bagel is known among Latvians as “ūdenskliņģeris” (water kringle) – named so after the production process, when dough made in shape of kringle is immersed in boiling water. They are much less popular now, as people get used to more indulgent and fancy pastries and breads, but in my childhood (and even more in older times) these water kringles were staple. They were not made with barley malt, though, which makes some difference between them and bagels as Westerners know them. I guess, it’s only matter of time when bagels will become popular in Latvia, as it was with muffins, macaroons and other specific breads and pastries.

    Muffin with “why not?” is real kicker 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, yeah, I thought it was a nice touch! It’s good to have friends who can bake and ice stuff 🙂 I’ll have to ask him how bagels are made so I can compare and contrast!

  13. Folks here in Mumbai – for the most part – were also not familiar with bagels!

    Til a friend of mine opened “The Bagel Shop” which serves gourmet bagels with interesting concoctions such as Goan sausages plus is a cool hang out joint with free Wi-Fi where more than one film was given birth, scripted, actors selected and more!

    Love your students gifts – enjoy!!

    When will the next batch begin to further entertain you and the rest of us?

  14. Do you need a reason to open a bottle of Prosecco??

  15. bevchen says:

    “Why not?” is the perfect reason to open a bottle of prosecco.

    When Jan and I visit his mum, we usually end up playing Scrabble. I’m always proud when I manage to find a word without Jan’s help, even if it is a crappy three letter word!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ah, can’t wait til I’m playing crap Scrabble in German. That will knock my competitive edge on the head – it’s hard to be competitive when you suck 🙂 I’m proud of you too!

  16. Baiba says:

    Actually I seem to remember, that about 10 or even more years ago there were places in Riga, where one could buy bagels. But I guess they were not so popular, so…

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I bought something I thought was a bagel – it most definitely was not 🙂 Is there something called a baranka? It totally fell apart when I tried to cut it and was just horrible 😉

      • Baiba says:

        No, I mean real bagels. Totally different from baranka:) I know, because I once even baked bagels myself, at home. But aren’t they selling also bagels at those doughnut places?

      • Expat Eye says:

        Hmm, I’m not sure! I don’t really eat doughnuts so I haven’t checked – I must do it though! I think they sell them at but I’ve heard that they’re not very good…

  17. June says:

    Ah, Scrabble. Or Squabble as we used to call it because a bloody riot always broke out! I’m very surprised you got Prosecco and not Šampanas! Enjoy it!

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’m very happy I got Prosecco instead! These ladies have taste 🙂
      Yeah, I get quite competitive when I play it too – has to be done! Or else there’s no point in playing 😉

  18. buddhaonbike says:

    hahaha… My dog’s name is Laima. I think it means ‘happiness’ in Latvian. Anyhow great blogs you got here. Looking forward to read about your new adventures. I’m also moving to London from Melbourne! A Euro-Roadtrip is on the cards. 🙂
    Keep blogging… Ciao!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hey! Thanks for reading! And yes, Laima does mean happiness – I guess chocolate makes people happy 🙂 Best of luck planning your road trip – I’d love to do that! Linda.

  19. Anna says:

    Aww, the bittersweet goodbyes! Here’s to more fun students and why-nots and cultural revelations.!
    PS – not a fan of bagels. Dont like anything that dense.

  20. nancytex2013 says:

    One never needs an excuse to open a bottle of bubbly. Ever.

  21. Oh noooooooooooo! You need to keep that class! Do you have a replacement lined up?? I won’t be able to sleep now. …. although that’s probably got more to do with me not having done my homework for tomorrow… my teacher won’t be proud, I can tell you that 😦

    Enjoy your goodies 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Say ‘whore’ in Portuguese – that might do it? 😉
      No replacements lined up yet – I think there’s only one Mr ‘Why Not?’ 😦

  22. Mmyum! BRB gonna get some Prosecco tonight and watch the Oscars!

  23. rigaenglish says:

    I’m not sure what’s sadder, that you’re saying goodbye to what sound like a great group of students or that I read your post and instantly thought “New English File, Upper Intermediate, Unit 7.” I once tried to explain what a trifle was to some students. There are times when having internet access and interactive white boards is a big plus.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, I was wondering if any other English teachers know NEF books off by heart! Thank god it’s not just me 🙂 Yeah, these guys were great – oh well! You could probably explain a trifle using that Friends episode where Rachel puts mince into hers 🙂

  24. linnetmoss says:

    I hope that one fine day, a bagel bakery will come to Latvia! They don’t know what they’re missing. Do they at least have cream cheese???

  25. Strangely, I’m also proud of the girl who managed to spell whore…

  26. Jude says:

    It’s always prosecco time (and it’s the oscars tonight, so go on, even though you may not get them..)

    • Expat Eye says:

      They’re probably on somewhere in the middle of the night! I’m up at 6 though so won’t be watching! Probably a good reason not to open the prosecco 🙂

  27. freebutfun says:

    It is, go for it! I would!

    And Scrabble is great. I think I learned most of my less ladylike vocabulary in German playing Scrabble.

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