I was going to a wedding – and I was going to get dressed up. In fact, I was not only part of the wedding, but I knew folks would be looking at the big American in his ào dài. (say ow yie) I figured a haircut was in order.
So, I asked Mr. Cu to take me to his hớt tóc (barbershop.) As always, Cu had his camera.
Barbershops are not necessarily in a business part of town. This one is in a neighborhood, at the end of an alley and is part of the barber’s house. Nice place for the local kids to get a glimpse of the stranger.
I keep my hair fairly short – and I asked for my hair to be cut short – but when I saw the first bit of hair come off my head, I realized the barber had a different idea of “short” than I did. But one of the things about a haircut is that it grows back. I can deal with short.
To answer some questions before they are asked: No, I did not ask him to clean my ears, though he had the requisite little brushes to do that. No, I didn’t get a “massage”, meaning the beating around the shoulders and neck that suffices to be a massage. No, I didn’t have to engage in the usual barbershop chatter – the man had never heard of football.
If one were to read most of the posts on this blog, one would think we are here in Việt Nam to just see the sights, go to a wedding, eat good food and ride a motorbike.
That may be true for me, but not for Cindy. She has work to do, though she will be the first to tell you that it is not work for her – it is a labor of love.
Since 2006, Cindy has been teaching a course in English medical terminology to the medical professionals of Huế. In the world of medicine, as in the world of business, aviation and many other fields, English is the standard. Research reports are written in English. When Vietnamese physicians go to conferences in Singapore or Japan, the language will be English. Visiting specialists will use English to converse with their Vietnamese colleagues. A group of Cindy’s current students will be going to Finland to study – and they will use English. And it just won’t do for a doctor or nurse to point to her left arm and say “This bone right here.” She needs to know the correct medical term for it.
These are motivated students. They already have passable general English skills, but now they need to add correct medical terms and names of procedures to their vocabulary. For a non-medical person, the entire class is gibberish, but to a medical professional’s ears, they are just learning the English term for words they already use in their practice of medicine and nursing. These two members of the nursing faculty are preparing themselves for overseas training.
For this class, Cindy’s students have new textbooks, all donated by the generous members of St. Peter & St. Paul Episcopal Church in Mission, Texas. The books will be a resource for them long after Cindy has returned home. Of course, such a gift creates a good relationship between the peoples of America and Việt Nam. It also continues to grow the work of MEDRIX, an excellent Seattle area group that has been doing health education work in central Việt Nam since the mid-1990s. These books will be well-thumbed during the next few years.
And it is a joy to watch my wife teach. It is a joy to watch because teaching is such an obvious joy to her. She loves working with these students – and her devotion to their learning is felt by the students. Questions are asked and answers given and the questions are not always just about English terminology. They may be about a procedure or condition the students would like more information about. As with any good teacher, if Cindy doesn’t know the answer, she will tell the inquirer that she will have an answer by the next class meeting.
One last photo for all you nurses out there. In Cindy’s classroom was a bust of Florence Nightingale. While seeming a bit strange to see in this Asian country, it was also nice to know that the spirit of caring for others transcends cultures. Love, not English, is the true international language.