Last night, I had to get four of my sleepy-eyed boys out of bed to brush their teeth. Two of them pretended they were already asleep, and I had to tickle them until they fell off the bed. Another used his mosquito netting as a protective barrier, while strategically moving to the corner that was furthest from my reach. And yet another tried to deceive me with a long series of comical excuses, while preventing me from smelling his breath.
But after nagging at them playfully for less than a minute, and after all the jokes were said and done, they all got up without complaints and walked towards their respective cabinets to rummage for their brushing tools. One boy got his toothbrush and toothpaste out of his cabinet in such a uncoordinated, dead-limbed, clumsy fashion, I could have sworn he was pretending to be a zombie. And after squeezing some paste on his brush, he turned to me with his eyes barely open, and offered to squeeze some on mine with a quick, nasally, questioning-styled grunt. I agreed, mostly because I was fond of that adorable grunt, and together we walked towards the dark bathroom, arm over shoulder, our weapons in hand.
For the next five minutes, we all brushed our teeth together in a long line, staring out towards the quiet, silhouetted construction cranes, while occasionally spitting out big globs of white foam bombs onto the tin roof. The air was overwhelmingly dewy, the perfect environment for Vietnamese ghosts to come out and haunt children, but because we were all together, brushing our teeth side by side, nobody could have felt safer.
On a whim, I started singing random crooning melodies with my mouth full of foam, probably just to see if I could actually do it. The globs of foam bombs rapidly increased down the line like a rainstorm starting to pick up, and then there were thunderous bursts of giggling that erupted behind their brushes.
And all of those smiles in mid-teeth-brushing that I luckily caught under that dark, mustard-y colored street-lamp light… and all of those sleepy, giant construction tools that didn’t wake up from our tin roof sound effects, and that brisk spirit dew that comfortably hugged each one of us…
It all made me remember just how nice it is to brush your teeth before bed.
My cross-cultural orientation has been running so smoothly today. All of those long nights of researching, organizing, and planning are finally paying off… and it feels danggood.
The new English teaching volunteers? They’re all coming from completely different backgrounds and points in their lives, which makes it fascinating to watch their group’s dynamics… Makes me think of my Group Interaction First Year Seminar in college, where we were put into groups to academically gossip about each other.
They’re constantly asking thoughtful questions and starting good discussions, and I can tell that they’re all ready to experience this Vietnamese culture, as closely to the local lifestyle as they can. My job is to get all of their ducks in a row and give them all the necessary tools, preparations, and introductions in order to do this. It’s little things like their enthusiasm and fresh energy that makes it so exciting to do my job.
As I’m writing this, the volunteers are all out and about on a Hue “scavenger hunt.” I forgot that I wouldn’t have to go with them, so now I’ve got two hours to kill without a plan in the world. So far, I’ve used this time to do some good-postured sitting, while simultaneously fiddling my thumbs.
Then I thought, "Wow… if I ever need an excuse to buy more time, this would be the most hilarious way to do it."
Teacher: “…I’m missing your term-paper on “The Art of Deception,” Mr. Huynh… Well? Where is it? And don’t even try to pull anything funny, mister.”
Me: “Umm… well… uhh… OH! I’ve got a scavenger hunt for you!”
Teacher: “oooOOOooo!” :::dashes out of the classroom, leaving a cartoon cloud of dust and flying papers:::