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Family Dinner

September 24, 2011

Tonight, I had an amazing dinner.

I’ve been spending time with the family who runs a store down by the gate to the dormitories. Chi, the daughter, speaks good English and has already helped me out with a bunch of things, especially getting my Vietnamese cell phone and buying more furniture for my room. Her parents, who don’t speak English, are also very nice, teaching me small amounts of Vietnamese whenever they can, providing me a space to hang out in during the day, and cooking delicious meals. Theo, who was here last year, considers them family.

I was considering where I’d go out for dinner tonight when Chi texted me and told me to come down to her house. Theo was already there, and Chen, my friend and a Chinese teacher at the University, joined us. Chi’s mom made an amazing meal: pork, chicken soup, rice, some kind of fish/corn balls, vegetables, all kinds of things. We sat and ate and talked as much as we could, laughing and chatting and sometimes even bickering (playfully, of course) about whatever subject we wanted to.

After dinner, we just chilled over tea. Theo practiced guitar using a quarter as a pick, which prompted a conversation about American currency (Apparently Chi has a few $2 bills, and Asian banks don’t accept old or torn up money for exchange purposes). Chi’s dad told us about his time in the army and the war, which prompted us to look at old family photos. Chi’s sister Nan came back from badminton practice (Badminton is a huge sport in Vietnam and Nan’s a national-caliber player), and laughed at me and Theo: we were watching soccer while Chen was working with Chi and her parents to translate Chinese and Vietnamese words. We argued that we were supporting the Vietnamese national team, and therefore blending with the culture our own way.

All in all, it was a great time. So many times since coming here I’ve been frustrated by the limited nature of conversations I’ve had with people, meeting them for a bit and getting out the same basic conversation points. Tonight, there was a sense of real community, of honest and open conversation and sharing. It felt like family, and it felt nice.

COMING SOON: English education: What to expect.

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