Vietnam Post #3: Learning how to Make New Friends (and Speak Vietnamese) — Diary of a Baba
Posted on July 29, 2019
I was not sure how to begin this post with all that is going on. My heart is full of inspiration and heaviness with the massive protests from Puerto Rico and Muana Kea to Hong Kong and yet another tragic shooting in Gilroy near the Bay Area. Love to all the people on the streets! (on and offline). Love to all the people holding space and optimism towards our North Star <3
Vietnam Post #3: Learning how to make new friends (and Speak Vietnamese)
As we enter our 4th week, we’re just scratching the surface of learning the daily life in Vietnam. One of my greatest fears coming to Vietnam was how Collin would be able to adjust and me being able to learn Vietnamese. Living in a new country, a new environment. The hot, humid and monsoon weather. New sounds and smells. A new culture, new school and new friends. It is a lot for all of us but especially for a 4 year old. He is constantly looking for a constant. He has adjusted WAY better than we’d imagined but we are also embracing all the tender moments like when he misses Oakland, home, and his friends.
(Image of me and Collin waiting for the preschool pick up in the morning. He has a sad and grumpy face.)
This week was a big test because the friends he just made the first two weeks returned home to Singapore. This was the first week as the only English speaker in the preschool and we were bracing ourselves for all the feels.
It already started the Friday before. He really didn’t want to go to school because “the teachers were going too fast in dance class.” I forgot what I did to bribe (or incentivize) him to go to school but he finally relented. Then over the weekend, he was saying that he had no friends at his new school. We kicked things into high gear and tried to set up playdates with other classmates but these things just take time.
Meanwhile, I started taking Vietnamese classes 3 days a week. Although there are some similarities with Mandarin and Cantonese through the colonial influence, it is still an entirely new language. I’m learning the basics and it is definitely a healthy challenge, like my jaw and mouth muscles hurt from praticing new sounds and tones.
It is actually a nice reminder that I know very little and have a lot to learn. I’m practicing my beginners mind and training every day. It is a great feeling. Everything is new and I’m ironically craving re-learning how to learn and I’m practicing patience with myself. It is like my (virtual) workout instructor says every morning, “focus on control and good form not speed.” Learning a new language is also like building my endurance.
Okay, so back to Collin. By Tuesday, he was already saying that he couldn’t wait until it was Friday. Every morning he would ask, “Is it Friday yet??” I finally asked him why he wanted it to be Friday, assuming he wanted the week to end. Instead, he said, “So I can dance!! I learned how to catch up with the teachers last week!!” Wow, news flash for us. It turns out that he’s still loving his new school, especially dance class on Fridays! Needless to say, we were proud… and very relieved.
(An assortment of images of Collin in dance class. He is in a number of poses and taking it very seriously. The video is the class practicing their dance moves to a Vietnamese song. Collin is in the back and keeping up with everything!)
On top of all this, we’ve been practicing more Vietnamese together as a fam. Collin and I practice saying daily words (i.e. warm milk, jackfruit or brush teeth) while Mychi would practice writing it in Vietnamese with the accents and tones. Mychi has been trying to do the shopping and bedtime routine in Vietnamese too. (Note: Mychi already speaks but is learning how to read and write in Vietnamese.) Collin seeing us learn makes him want to practice his Vietnamese too. What a concept. Truth be told, I’m pretty much the “weak link” in the fam. Collin can at least understand basic Vietnamese. I, on the other hand, need to step up my game so I can even understand what is going on. I’ve been practicing and learning as much as I can and have been google translating a lot of things and even putting up post-its all around the apartment.
(Images of my Vietnamese language books and some of the post its I have around the apartment of basic words and fruits)
By the end of the week, we had 3 playdates with one of his classmates (!!) more than we expected. It all started when Mychi wrote a personalized note (in Vietnamese) to his classmates’s parents. By the weekend, the family had opened up their home in all ways. They took us to a kids mega Jump Arena (pretty freaking amazing) and on a day long trip to their home town in Dong Nai Province to pick fruit (mangosteen and rambutan). Then, we had a large meal at the farm, which of course ended with fresh durian. It was a full and eventful day, humbling to say the least.
We’re grateful for the kindness and generosity we’ve already received. Everything usually works out but not the way we expected. We’re learning that its good to be intentional and have plans but also to be open to all the new twists/turns and goodness that come towards us.
(Slideshow of our full day at the fruit farm in the Dong Nai Province. There are images of the farm, mangosteen, rambutan, Collin and his new friend picking fruit, Mychi with her durian and a couple of selfies of both our families.)