Monday, September 7, 2009

Good point!

My good friend Jon over at our sister blog The Guangzhou Story brought up an excellent point about language barriers, one that apparently at least I and my sister blogger Jon have experienced:

I don't speak Thai, and Jon speaks Chinese less than perfectly, and so we are constantly finding ourselves to be the objects of laughter and ridicule of native speakers here who are amused/frustrated by our inabilities to communicate in their language. If you have ever gone into a restaurant, a clothes store, hospital, taxi, etc. and had the monolingual spitfire a phrase or two at you that is far beyond your ability to say Hello, My Name is Jason, and then a crowd of people come over and point at you and try to figure out what you want, and it's a huge hassle for everyone, then you know the sitch: and you know how frustrating it is to be the object of such scorn.

Well, whenever this happens to me--and I have learned enough Thai/the locations to avoid so that it is less frequent now--I usually find myself delivering in my mind a monologue that is derived from a hybrid of Phil Hartman's Frank Sinatra and Roy Cohn from Angels in America--just totally obnoxious superiority and frustration and "Well if..."

Example: at the clinic a month ago, after I filled in only my telephone number on a form and then went back to ask a nurse (none of whom spoke any English) what else I needed to write, she snatched the form from my hand, showed it to everyone in the waiting room and started laughing. I was, shall we say, flummoxed.

Thought one: empathy.
"What if you were in America and you had to go to a clinic where you didn't speak English?"

Thought two: Roy Cohn. (I skipped the Rule of Three, such was my anger)
"Do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is? I went to the best school in America. I spent more money on my eating options in one semester than you will ever make in your nurse-life, nurse. I DRIVE A RED SPORTSCAR. LOOK ON MY PASSPORT, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!"

And, well, a lot of profanity and racial slurs that I would prefer not to include. That's where the Roy Cohn/Sinatra comparison comes in.

Learning how to control my anger has been one of the greatest lessons so far during my time here. I am an extremely proud person, one that

Forget it, I got distracted by YouTube clips of Al Pacino movies.


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