Our recent visit to National Geographic’s Photo Ark exhibition in Belém reminded me of a bizarre incident a number of years back when I was still teaching at the language school.
The morning groups I taught tended to attract a slightly more, shall we say, eclectic student profile. At the time I was doing the lead-in to an innocuous reading about pampered pooches. I started the chitchat about students’ pets, how much a part of the family they were and how indulged and whatnot. Imagine my delighted surprise when an Angolan student began recounting the story of her father, who, being a real animal lover, took in a baby monkey. So far, so cute.
Subsequently, the cute little monkey actually grew to be a very large monkey (but not a gorilla, I checked, but she indicated about the size of a small person). It was at this point that she revealed that one day the monkey escaped and ran into a neighbour’s house. Obviously alarmed, the neighbour defended himself with a handy axe that he happened to have lying around and killed the monkey.
Er, eh, what? Unsurprisingly, the class became very subdued; it was quite the conversation-killer and so much for my fluffy pets discussion.
The golden rules at the language school were always to avoid any discussion about religion or politics, but in light of this incident, perhaps pet primates should be added to the list of taboo topics.