A bit more about the kitchen gods. As I walk around the city of Da Nang and visit the houses of our staff for meals at Tet I have noticed a few things. I have seen what appear to be altars with a small red light. I have seen these in restaurants, cafes, and in the kitchens of our staff. I asked My Hoa about the altar and she said, "kitchen gods." Ah Ha! Now that I know what those little altars are I am seeing them everywhere. I feel incredibly blessed to be here immersed in this culture and learning every moment. Sometimes I am out of my comfort zone and I know the place where learning takes place is outside of the comfort zone in a place I call the learning zone. I have been spending a lot of time there. As long as I do not get into the panic zone I will be okay.
I have seen a dramatic increase in Victor's skill level with the language. I am still stumbling around unable to remember words and phrases when I need them. I have taken to carrying a small note pad with useful everyday phrases. The people smile when I use the "wait a second" gesture, look up what I want to say and make the effort to use their language. I am honored to be such a great source of amusement. Oddly enough I also find myself signing in ASL as I try to speak tieng Viet. I am not use to having three languages rattling around in my head at the same time. Hope I don't blow a head gasket! It is all more time in the learning zone.
The reading that I did before coming here is paying off very nicely. Little things such as, it is considered very rude to point at another person. We were out for ca phe (coffee) and one of Victor's friends pointed at him. The two girls seated next to him freaked out and pushed his hands down. When I explained it to Victor later he indicated that although he has the language skill I have brought some knowing of the culture. I think we make I good team. That will be very useful in the coming weeks as we start teaching English at Da Nang University's English Language Club. This is another aspect of our community service. Two evenings a week we will create lessons for students wishing to sharpen their ability to communicate with tieng Ahn (English). We have some teaching materials here at the house to help in our effort to create lessons that will work for the students. Young Vietnamese people are sometimes very shy around strangers so we are hoping to have the right mix of activity and instruction to include everyone.......we shall see.
Speaking of being included; I have always felt included in everything that has happened here so far. The program is constructed to be inclusive and the people and the friends we are making always want to include us in their activities. There is a group of young people here who look forward to new students coming in from Brockport. They love making new American friends and they know exactly when we arrive! I have said before and it bears repeating.....Next vacation visit beautiful Viet Nam!
Chuc Mung Nam Moi!!