L’esprit de escalier: (French) The feeling you get after leaving a conversation, when you think of all the things you should have said. Translated it means “the spirit of the staircase.”
Waldeinsamkeit: (German) The feeling of being alone in the woods.
Meraki: (Greek) Doing something…
I met the most fascinating couple last night. They were both around 80 years old and had lived incredibly full lives. Will is a German-American dual citizen and has lived all over the world. The last time he was in Vietnam was 1954, just before Vietnam gained independence from the French. He was selling alcohol to the British who were assisting the French. During the war 10 years later, he shipped alcohol, cigarettes and other items from Hong Kong to the Americans just below the DMZ.
His wife was even more amazing.
Born in Chiang Mai, Thailand but of Chinese ethnicity, Danh grew up speaking multiple Thai dialects, Mandarin and the Chinese dialect from her mother’s home town. Her mother died when she was twelve years old, leaving her as caretaker for her younger brother and sister. While attending high school, she took over her mother’s business of providing food to local schools. Although she wanted to go to University after high school, she couldn’t, as she was responsible for her sibling’s welfare and school fees. She began teaching, making 50 baht, or 10 USD, a month. Finally, she left her siblings to move to Bangkok, where she found a job working in a Vietnamese bakery. During her time there, she picked up Vietnamese and managed to make the equivalent of 50 USD a month. It is there that she met Will who was looking for bakery to provide buns for quarter-pounder hamburgers, which were unheard of in Thailand at the time. Thinking he would get a lower price if he wooed Danh a bit, he took her out to dinner. He got the lower price but he also got a wife. Since then they’ve lived in the US, Hong Kong, Thailand and Portugal. While living in the US, Danh learned Polish because she was working with a number of Poles. In Portugal, she learned Portuguese after two months of simply listening to her housekeeper speak.
I only hope that I have such incredible stories to tell when I’m their age.
I love these Live the Language advertisements…
Let’s go to France!
These are amazing =)
On the tshirt worn by one of my 11 year old students today….
Today is…interesting. I wandered into the hotel-heavy part of Haiphong and found a number of restaurants where the servers speak English, which is, unfortunately, exactly what I need right now. I’m finally hitting that second wave of culture shock that I was warned about in Ghana but never quite reached while I was there. The first wave is simple amazement. Everything is new and exciting. The second wave consists of simply being overwhelmed…by…everything…The novelty wears off and suddenly you find that you’re half way around the world, alone, and in a place where you can barely communicate with people. Locals stare as you walk by because of the color of your skin and uniqueness of your face and when you do something wrong, they have no way of telling you what it was or why. I’ve had quite a few Vietnamese women shout at me as though, the louder they speak, the more I will understand. I’m not deaf, I’m American! These women never mean any harm; in fact, I’d take Vietnamese women over most Ghanaian women any day. Vietnamese women, especially mothers, are always looking out for you, offering you rides home and making sure you don’t get cheated. Many Ghanaian women, especially those in their 20’s, somehow see you as a threat to their way of life.
That being said, I’ve had a rough few days and it’s taken all my strength not to go out and buy a puppy just to have something to come home to (and I’ve not yet completely ruled it out…).
On a better note, my Vietnamese is slightly improving, which is making things better. At least that’s true when I can remember the phrases. I’ve “learned” How are you? How much is it? 2, 3, I/me…but my tone still allows for a good amount of confusion. The other day, instead of calling a female student by her name (An’h), I called her “brother” (anh)..Do you see very little difference…? Me too…
The one bad thing about now knowing the tiniest bit of Vietnamese is that when I say anything…they start rattling off in Vietnamese like I’ll understand…so I just stand there and gape like an idiot and say “sorry?”