Greetings, Mrs. Irvineâ€™s class, from South East Asia!
â€œHello Mister what is your name?â€ these kids holler as they ride past me on their bicycle, not bothering to wait for my answer as I sip my coffee in the outdoor cafÃ© in the small ocean-side Vietnamese town of Quy Nhon (sounds like “koo-y nee-yone”) â€“ they wouldnâ€™t understand even if they had stuck around for my â€œfine, thanks,â€ anyway.
No matter where you go here in Vietnam, youâ€™re bound to get some sort of greeting, usually in the one or two English phrases that every child in the country seems to have learned in school.
Communicating is one of the most challenging parts of being in a different place, in a different culture, amongst a different people. Even the simple act of eating can become a frustrating task!
The other day I stopped by a road-side restaurant in Nha Trang (“nee-yah troong”), a town famous for its seafood, and tried to get the message across that I wanted to order some sea food stirfry.
What showed up in front of me was this boiling pot of soup, with huge pieces of fresh fish boiling away in the spicy brothe, and a big pile of fresh vegetables to toss in and cook myself so that I could enjoy it all with my rice. It wasn’t what I was trying to order at all, but I sure didn’t complain! It was “ngon lum,” very delicious!
There are so many things that make us different. While language is an obvious one when you travel, there are other differences in the way that people interact, how they treat each other, what things mean. You might point to a piece of chicken in a restaurant in Indonesia, but wind up insulting the chef because you were using the index finger on your left hand!
Religion is another factor that makes people different in different countries, and even in the same country. Indonesia, for example, has the largest Islamic population in the world, but there are also many Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others.
In Vietnam, families put offerings of entire banquets out on the street for their dead ancestors.
So how do we overcome these differences, how do we get along when weâ€™re speaking different languages, when we even see the world in a different way?
Thatâ€™s what we have to figure outâ€¦ All the wars and conflicts that have and continue to happen in our world â€“ well, itâ€™s obvious that we havenâ€™t all figured out exactly how to understand each other, at least not yetâ€¦