My friend, a young man of
theMontagnard tribe of Vietnam, graduated yesterday from an ESL program, and I was honored to be among theguests. English was the order of theday, of course, but after receiving their well-earned certificates of achievement, thestudents narrated PowerPoints showing theflags, foods, wea ther, cities, natural beauty and resources, and so forth of their native lands, and native words and expressions came forth.
Speaking more than one language strikes me as a wondrous accomplishment. My two years of high school Latin provided a linguistic foundation I continue to enjoy, and I went fairly far with French in h.s. and college, but “if you don’t use it…” Acquiring a second language is on my sure-would-like-to-if-I-had-
the-time list, but since there has been no necessity to do so, I never have. And so, I am especially impressed by those who have worked hard and applied their intelligence to master this feat. And I was surrounded by them yesterday.
the presentations in theauditorium, we celebrated in the cafeteria, with their colorful folk costumes, singing, dancing, and conversation. The room was alive with joy, gratitude and—what’s the other word I’m looking for here? Ambition, I think. I loved talking with a civil engineer from Ecuador who was born in China; with George from Georgia, whose hero is Ronald Reagan because of his part in breaking up theSoviet Union; with a Chinese woman describing stands by theside of the road in her country where people sell “tea eggs,” hard-boiled in tea with anise, a quick breakfast for many on their way to work or school; with my Vietnamese friend, who scored 100% on his naturalization test a couple years ago and whose next goal is earning his GED, then on to college.
the food! Don’t forget the food, an important and yummy part of thecultural bridge, served with pride and eaten with delight. Borsch with sour cream, shrimp rolls, chocolate bread and black bread and tortillas and blini, peanut soup and carrot soup, thin and silvery noodles, little zucchini pancake-like treats, tea eggs (described above), guacamole, rice pudding, and many more dishes.
Heavens, I think back to my 1950s elementary education and being entranced by
the story and pictures of Pimwe, the jungle boy of theAmazon in our social studies book. We’ve come a long way from those times, when such stories were o ther worldly and exotic to being able to hear and see people from faraway places on pretty much any street corner. I love it.