Sometimes my Chinese students remind me of those Florida retirees who line up for blue-plate specials at 4:30 every day and are in bed by 9 every night.
Most of my students follow a similarly rigid routine when it comes to eating and sleeping, particularly in the afternoon. They eat an early lunch, usually at noon, and then go back to their dorm for a nap before resuming classes in the afternoon.
One student arrived 20 minutes late for her midterm, which started at 12:30 p.m. When I asked her why, she said, “I was eating lunch.’’ Why didn’t she eat earlier? “Because I always have lunch at noon,’’ she replied, seemingly surprised by the question.
The same thing happened a few days later when, following a leisurely meal, a student showed up a half-hour late for her makeup exam. “If I don’t eat first, I won’t have energy for the test,’’ she said. But why didn’t you have lunch at 11:30 instead of noon, I asked. “I eat the same time every day,’’ she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Most students also take a nap after lunch. “We must get our rest,’’ one explained, “or else we will fall asleep in class.’’
Which reminds me of the old Groucho Marx line from “Horse Feathers.’’ When Groucho’s Professor Wagstaff is asked where the students will sleep if the dorms are torn down, he quips: “Where they always sleep – in the classroom.’’